Last year, the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis forced organizations to do something they previously had no habit of: acknowledging racism. The organizations quickly began to display symbols of anti-racism, and most went a step further to make a commitment, vague or otherwise, to eradicate racism. The National Women’s Soccer League and its teams were no exception, the first in the American sports landscape with the ability to do so.
Attempts to combat racism are not foreign to sports, but are historically led by individual athletes rather than the organizations that host sporting events. The industry-wide practice was to remain quiet on anything remotely external, seemingly always in pursuit of a clean image that neither creates conflict nor admits to it. The change in public communication, though sudden, was welcome and unquestionably met the moment. It was also a very obvious first step to combat discrimination centuries in the making.
Tackling racism will naturally require a long period of work, as multiple officials at the NWSL and its teams told The Equalizer this spring. A year after Floyd’s murder finally put acts of anti-racism on the public agenda, it is clear enough time has passed for organizations to make at least some progress to meet the goals they openly set for themselves.
“We are through the learning and listening phase,” Washington Spirit president of business operations Lindsay Barenz said. “We gotta move faster. We’re still learning. We’re still listening. That’s something we’ll always be doing, but we are also in the executing phase.”
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