The Philadelphia Union played its first MLS Is Back match on Thursday morning, a 1-0 win over New York City Football Club that kicked off at 9 a.m. in Orlando. The breakthrough came in the 63rd minute by team captain Alejandro Bedoya, but a moment before things kicked off paid homage to those who have lost their lives to senseless acts of police brutality.
The entire Union squad lined up for a pre-match photo in t-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter.” Upon taking them off, the team turned around, and instead of having their names across the nameplates, the team surprised everyone — most notably ESPN’s broadcast crew, which wasn’t sure what was going on — by having names like “Floyd,” “Taylor,” and more across their backs.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 9, 2020
This was not the only tribute we saw out of the Union, as Bedoya wore a special captain’s armband that included the names of those who were killed by those who took an oath to protect and serve.
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) July 9, 2020
Following the match, Union coach Jim Curtin explained that the decision was made among members of the team without the league’s approval.
“At the start, certainly things going on in our country far bigger than soccer,” Curtin said, per ESPN. “I have to say I’m very proud of my players throughout the past four months for the leadership they’ve shown, the leadership role they’ve taken in the BLM movement, educating the other players on our team.
“The idea today was action over permission; I hope the league understands that. It was done to show respect, to learn, to grow, to make our country better. I’m really proud of my players for everything they’ve done.”