As one of the first United States national teams to represent the country in international competition since the coronavirus pandemic upended sports back in March — and since new calls for social justice exploded around the world following the viral video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers in Minnesota in May — players on the U.S. men’s soccer squad wanted to make a statement before the USMNT’s first match in 285 days.
As the national anthems rang out before Thursday’s friendly against Wales in Swansea, they did just that. Each of the 11 American starters (and those on the bench) wearing warmup jackets with the phrase “Be the Change” emblazoned on the front of them.
The message, of course, is part of the famous quote by 20tth century Indian ethicist Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
In the days leading up to Thursday’s contest, U.S. players Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Zack Steffen, who have all been outspoken in the need for an end to systemic racism and inequality both in the U.S. and elsewhere, teased that the team was planning some sort of statement in its first match since a Feb. 1 win over Costa Rica. However, they declined to say what exactly they were going to do in advance.
In a statement shared with the broadcast rights holders before kickoff, the players explained their reasoning.
“With the goal of inspiring action in everyone, and showing an example of unity within our diverse group that truly represents a snapshot of America, we decided on the statement ‘Be the Change’ to be adorned on the front of each of our anthem jackets,” the statement read, according to Fox Sports’ play-by-play man John Strong.
Players wore personalized messages on the back of the jackets, much like their counterparts in the NBA did during the end of that league’s season. “These personal messages demonstrate that while united in our goal, individuals can choose their own path to impact change,” they said.
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