Over the last month, America has been having a long-overdue conversation about race, justice and equality in our society. At NBC Sports Washington, we wanted to further the dialogue by providing a forum for DMV-area sports figures who are thought leaders on these important issues.
NBC Sports Washington is launching the second part of an ongoing video series entitled Race in America. This week, Bill Hamid, Renaldo Wynn and Ish Smith joined Chis Miller for the second of these roundtable discussions to share their experiences, thoughts and how they’re using their platforms in this fight. To watch the full interview, click here.
Nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd have been necessary to light a fire under people in positions to make necessary changes to combat racial injustices.
Since the protests began nearly two months ago, no area of society has gone untouched by the current social justice movement, including sports. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races, and drivers stood behind Bubba Wallace in unprecedented fashion after a noose-like rope was found in his garage. The NBA dedicated the rest of its season to shed light on racial injustices. And the NFL pledged a $250 million donation to help in the fight.
In soccer, Black MLS players took it into their own hands to create the change they wanted to see. Following Floyd’s death, over 70 players, including D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid created the Black Players Coalition of MLS, which has since been renamed Black Players for Change.
Hamid talked about why the coalition was necessary on “Race in America,” a panel hosted by NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, where he was also joined by Wizards guard Ish Smith and former Washington defensive end Renaldo Wynn. He said the group's mission is to make a difference in inner-cities, whether it be with fees for kids to play soccer, childhood obesity, or mass incarceration.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the opportunity to speak about what would make a difference for us, what would help the Black player coming out of university or coming out of high school,” Hamid said. “How do we get into the inner city and into their cities and really make a difference? There’s not much of that going on, and we’ve seen that for a while, we’ve seen that for a long time. And a few of us came together and we said we need to start this. This is our opportunity.”
RACE IN AMERICA: WATCH BILL HAMID, ISH SMITH & RENALDO WYNN'S FULL DISCUSSION
Hamid said every single Black player in Major League Soccer is part of the group, which recently announced a partnership with the Players Coalition headed by the NFL’s Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins.
“I mean, the talks that we have, the Zoom calls that we put together, the insight from the oldest Black player in Major League Soccer to the very youngest, just giving everybody a voice to speak. What do we want to do? What changes do we want to make? It’s been one of the most powerful things I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” Hamid said.
Black Players for Change gives MLS an opportunity to be at the forefront of creating equality in a sport that has struggled to eliminate racism. Particularly in European leagues, Hamid said it’s an ongoing battle.
“Soccer has a lot of systemic racial issues going on, whether it be with agents, agencies, contracts dealing with a player of color, it’s tough,” Hamid said. “Fortunately, I’ve played most of my career in Washington, D.C., for D.C. United, so I haven’t seen too much racial bias, but I would say for a lot of other players and a lot of other leagues, bigger countries too, and they go to the countries to go with their family, and they’re the ultimate idea of the minority. So, the fan bases and the ultras, as they call them in soccer, I mean, from monkey chains to throwing bananas on the field -- that’s one of the more popular things that we’ve seen in European football -- bananas being thrown on the field from the fans. And players have been so emotional in the middle of games that they have to walk off the field."
Hamid said FIFA’s “Say No to Racism” campaign is an attempt to rid the sport of such hateful acts, but as is the case in America and around the world, there’s so much more work to be done.
“For some reason, it just hasn’t subsided. So, it’s an ongoing fight,” Hamid said. “Especially in soccer, it’s an ongoing fight. It’s a predominantly caucasian sport, and we still have to break through a lot of barriers as players of color. But that’s a fight that we’ve taken by starting the Black Players Coalition.”
You can watch the full panel by clicking here.
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