Pro soccer players on P.E.I. make 'powerful' gesture of solidarity
All players took a knee for Black Lives Matter
During Thursday's match between Atletico Ottawa and York9 FC, every player from every team in the Canadian Premier League took a knee in solidarity on the soccer pitch at UPEI.
"It was powerful," said Ottawa left winger Malcolm Shaw, 25.
"Just looking around at everyone collectively together, you know, unified in taking the knee and making the stand, I thought it was encouraging to see."
The moment came eight minutes and 46 seconds into the game, the time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video pressing his knee into George Floyd's neck.
Floyd's death on May 25 touched off protests and riots across the United States and Canada.
Due to pandemic restrictions, the stands were empty. The league's on-site production crew sent video out on social media.
Players with faces masked marched onto the pitch and took a knee, one clenched fist held above their heads.
In the background, computer-generated bleachers sat empty, with the words "Black Lives Matter" and "We Are Many" superimposed.
Most players in the CPL are Canadian and many are Black.
"Growing up, I had majority Black friends," said Kyle Porter, 30, right winger for York FC.
"I've dealt with a lot of being pulled over by the cops and asking if I'm a drug dealer or even not being allowed into establishments because of the clothes I was wearing.
"There's fear that's going through every person's mind of colour. You know it's crazy times and if we don't promote change then it's going to continue to stay the same."
The protest is not over yet, according to some players. Online CPL viewers may see some players take the knee in future games, perhaps after goals are scored or during the national anthem.
CPL games continue into September at UPEI. Saturday afternoon, spectators will be allowed on-site for the first time. The province's chief public health officer has approved a plan for a select number of young soccer players to be admitted to the grounds.