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The Voice of the Black Community
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Independence's Roberts, Miller emerge as social justice advocates
Teammates lend their voices as activists
Published Monday, June 15, 2020 1:11 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Charlotte Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller has stepped up as a social justice advocate along with defender Brandon Miller.

Local professional soccer players are going beyond words to impact social justice.

Charlotte Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller and defender Hugh Roberts have stepped up as social justice advocates. Roberts has often questioned people to consider how they would feel if racism led to the death of a family member. Then Roberts found out he was an extended cousin of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer last month in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“My mom hit me up a couple days after everything,” Roberts said. “It brought tears to my eyes. It touched me on a different level, because these are things I mentioned before about, ‘what if this was your family?’ Then here it is. He is a family member. It made me want to speak out even more and just keep this going.”

Roberts continues to use his voice and BackYardFooty podcast to educate players at all levels and coaches about what black players experience.

While protests have taken place across the globe in response to injustice, Roberts doesn’t want the moment to slip away and return to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We think these killings are just going to go away, but they keep going on,” he said. “We can’t let this momentum die.”

Miller’s individual efforts have been focused on different charities and nonprofit organizations, such as One7 Ministries and Project 658 that are already doing the work necessary for change. The two organizations use soccer to serve east Charlotte communities, particularly the refugee population in that area.

One of Miller’s teammates, defender Shalom Dutey, is a product of the One7 Academy program. Dutey, a Garinger High alumnus, came to Charlotte as a refugee from Togo in west Africa. For individuals like Dutey who have come through these programs, it’s a matter of using the game to pursue higher education, or a means of adapting to a new environment.

“Now it’s about supporting the organizations who have been doing the work for years, not just now,” Miller said. “Now it’s about taking action and working with these different organizations. Not just talking about it, but actually being about it in the community, and doing what we need to do to be a part of the change that we need.”

Miller has previously used his apparel and equipment brand Prime Focus Goalkeeping to benefit local organizations. He intends to continue contributing goalkeeper gloves as well as create a charity night where people can donate anything from equipment to apparel to financial contributions. The date and details are to be determined.

Miller is also supporting his former Rochester Rhinos teammate Christian Silva, who created a #SpeakUpStandUp bracelet campaign benefitting the Know Your Rights Camp, which advocates for education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and creating new systems elevating the next generation of leaders.  

“It’s a wristband to use as a reminder to take action and speak up when necessary,” Miller said.

Miller does not intend to stop with soccer specific organizations. He wants to work with the local NAACP chapter and other groups who champion advocacy for minority communities.

“It’s all about action,” said Miller, who grew up in Charlotte. “As players, we’re working on the action steps we need to take to help the Charlotte community.”

Support from the club itself has been lackluster. While the organization has put out standard statements of support, it toes the line between tone deaf and allowing players to decide how they choose to proceed.

“Right now, my focus is what I can do, and what the players can do to do our part,” Miller said. “If there is interest there, then great, but we’re going to do what we need to do in order to be a voice and an advocate, and really affect change in the community.”

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