The following discussion is an interview with the Black Players Alliance of the United Soccer League. For more information on the Black Players Alliance, visit their website.
What is the Black Players Alliance?
The Black Players Alliance of the United Soccer League (USL) is a non-profit organization with a mission to improve diversity at all levels of soccer in the United States. We are a collection of black professional soccer players in the USL who have come together to use our collective voice to impact change in our league and in our communities we represent. Our group has over 100 members and everyone is dedicated to the same mission of creating greater diversity, specifically within the coaching and executive ranks of the USL. We also want to impact the next generation. Increasing the soccer opportunities in underserved communities will allow for more diversity in youth soccer and hopefully have an impact beyond the pitch. The Alliance is also an organization that aims to provide resources for our members to be successful outside of playing soccer. We have various programs and resources we currently (and in the future) provide to allow our members to flourish beyond the pitch. Overall, we are simply an organization that wants to do our part to make soccer in our country more diverse and inclusive.
How/why was this alliance formed?
The organization was formed a couple months ago after weeks of work getting everyone organized. The original thought was sparked during conversations on a podcast called “Backyard Footy”, which is hosted by one of our Executive Committee members, Hugh Roberts. The podcast episode featured black players from Major League Soccer and USL and it was an episode discussing many of our shared experiences of being black and playing soccer around the world. We realized on the podcast that many of us were having similar experiences and felt similarly about the social injustices happening around our country and we needed to figure out a way, as black men, to address these issues. From those discussions, and many afterwards, the Black Players Alliance was formed. It started out by reaching out to other black players a few of us knew around the league and slowly we reached more and more until we got to the point where we were ready to announce ourselves to the world. We really felt it was necessary to form this organization because we realized there wasn’t anyone or any group better suited to address the issues of race that affect each member of our group better than ourselves. We want to be a part of the positive change in our league and in our communities.
What does the BPA hope to accomplish?
We have a few important goals that we plan to accomplish. Our first goal is to improve the diversity in power positions within our league. We define power positions as jobs that have the capacity to make important decisions that affect individual players, clubs, or the league as a whole. Some of these positions include head coaches, general managers, and team presidents at the individual club level. At the league level, the lack of black and brown faces in executive positions is concerning as well. Our league consists of more than a third minority players yet our representation beyond the field is limited. If the people making the decisions to steer this league don’t truly understand those representing the league, then we feel it is impossible to grow TOGETHER as a league. Our mission with increased diversity in these positions is to give the next generation a higher level to aspire to. If young minorities don’t have the opportunity to see black and brown people in positions of power then it makes it harder for them to aspire to reach those positions. We want to give the next generation the hope they need to succeed. Another goal of ours is to expand the opportunities at the youth level for disadvantaged children. Typically, lower income neighborhoods in the communities we serve are often a majority black and brown and too often these communities tend to be underserved. We want to work with local and national partners to create programs to not only get our players out in these communities but also the clubs that claim to serve these communities. We want everyone to have access to the world’s game and our mission is to do that by using our resources in each community to impact change.
How can others get involved in supporting the BPA moving forward?
We are still in the beginning stages of forming a lot of the initiatives we plan to enact moving forward but we have some exciting programs coming in the pipeline. We want to increase the number of coaches who have the proper licensing in order to give them more opportunities at higher levels. What better way to do that than to start with members from our own group?! We are finalizing a coaching subsidies scholarship program for our members in order to provide them some financial assistance for many of the coaching licenses that can be pretty expensive. We also have a partnership with the Young Investors Society, which is a financial literacy platform that provides educational resources for youth to better prepare them for the real world. The program has a “Dollar A Day” challenge which offers kids the opportunity to learn how to save. We plan to start a fund which will help sponsor kids in this challenge and help them learn more about financial literacy. We will also have a general fund which we will use to donate to various national and local charities that we partner with. Once we have finalized everything with that, people will be able to donate specifically to whichever cause they see fit. Also, there are ways to support us beyond financial donations. We work with a number of people currently who are providing us incredible resources to help us grow. Whether it’s for our website, social media content creation, or guest speakers for our professional development series, we’ve had a tremendous amount of support offered to us and we are very appreciative.