For Juneteenth 2021, the soccer community mobilized in extraordinary ways to mark the holiday.
Supporter groups, player coalitions, and teams united to celebrate African American culture on June 19 and educate communities about the significance of Black Independence Day.
In total, 79 supporters groups organized by the Independent Supporters Council led local efforts and amplified the work of Black Women’s Players Collective, Black Players Alliance of the USL, and Black Players for Change.
“The [Black Women’s Players Collective] is humbled by the historic collaboration between our organization, [Independent Supporters Council], [Black Players for Change], and the Black Players Alliance of USL for this Juneteenth Holiday,” shared Imani Dorsey, Board Member of the Black Women’s Player Collective.
Together, the groups released a limited edition 1865 Collection: Celebrate FREEDOM t-shirt, designed by Phelo Alonso and Chris Fox, one of the founders of the black-led Featherstone Flamingoes in Madison. Proceeds from the sales of the shirt will directly support the Black Women’s Players Collective, Black Players Alliance of the USL, and Black Players for Change.
In addition, supporter groups across all three major U.S. soccer tiers hosted a variety of in-game activations and events to commemorate the day.
The River City 93 supporter group in Richmond held a minute of respect during its match to honor the Richmond 34, a group of Virginia Union University students who participated in a nonviolent sit-in at a local lunch counter in 1960. They are also planning a community service lunch day for the homeless next month as a continuation of their efforts.
The Black Diamonds of New Mexico collaborated with fellow supporters on a Juneteenth gameday banner and celebrated at the local festivals in downtown Albuquerque.
In Madison, the team and its Featherstone Flamingoes supporters group sold exclusive Juneteenth scarves and showcased poetry, song, and drumline performances from Black artists during its June 19 match against New England Revolution II.
“I think soccer, it’s a great example of meshing cultures together,” shared April Kigeya, co-president of the Featherstone Flamingos, in the group’s video with Forward Madison. “The team is very diverse, the crowd is very diverse; so being able to have the attention of those diverse crowds and then highlight Juneteenth in an environment where those people are already together I think is a great tool to use.”
In Chicago, the Black Fires supporters hosted a Juneteenth tailgate and expo with other Black organizations in the community before the Red Stars match against the Washington Spirit.
The list goes on and on.
Together, the movement speaks to the growing power of soccer in this country and the unity around racial equity. Brian Straus’ recent Sports Illustrated article about the Black Players for Change coalition summarizes that impact well.
“It has been incredible to witness mobilization around Juneteenth within the U.S. soccer community,” shared Bailey Brown, President of the Independent Supporters COuncil. “Never before have we seen supporters, teams, and leagues uniting around one day like this.”
This weekend, as the soccer community continues to celebrate Juneteenth and reflect on this country’s past, it’s important to recognize the leaders across the sport who are continuing to move our communities forward through the game we love. Their efforts demonstrate how soccer is more than just a game.