|Initiative aims to make soccer more inclusive, less bigoted|
|Anti Racist Soccer Club launches goals|
|Published Monday, April 26, 2021 7:00 pm|
|PHOTO | MIKE KOZLOWSKI
|Charlotte Independence teammates Hugh Roberts (left) and Brandon Miller are co-founders of Anti Racist Soccer Club.|
Anti Racist Soccer Club exists to replace performative statements with purpose-driven action.
Co-founder Hugh Roberts never expected to use his platform as a professional athlete as a community advocate, yet he and co-founder Brandon Miller are doing just that. Both play for the Charlotte Independence and co-founded the USL Black Players Alliance. Miller, a Charlotte native, is 10-year veteran and plays in goal. Roberts, a nine-year veteran, is a defender whose father attended Garinger High.
They collaborate with local nonprofits like Heal Charlotte and Block Love Charlotte to address housing insecurity and meet the needs of the homeless. Roberts launched a philanthropic arm, Footy’s Got You, through his brand BackYardFooty to have a broader reach in the community as well as a breakfast program with Food Lion and Block Love Charlotte that kicked off earlier this month. Block Love will host the events twice a month throughout the rest of the year.
“I could never ever imagine any of this,” Roberts said. “I really didn’t think I would get to a point where my voice would be heard, to be very honest with you. You are an athlete. You a lot of times assume that you kind of stay within your realm, and your job is to do whatever is on the field. Now that everything has kind of happened it’s like, ‘man, I’m here at a point now where my voice is being heard.’ It’s crazy to me still. I never would have imagined that, but I’m beyond thankful and glad that these things kind of came to fruition for me.”
Both have seen the impacts of racism on and off the field. ARSC is the next step of addressing the need for fundamental change within the game. They collaborated with professional player Kaiya McCullough and AFC Ann Arbor (National Premier Soccer League) Chair Bilal Saeed to establish ARSC.
“We want to use [ARSC] to educate,” Miller said. “We want to use it to help give people a guide, specifically soccer clubs that may not know exactly what to do [or] how to do it specifically on racial issues and in our sport and in our communities. I know just for myself I have had a lot of people ask me, ‘what can I do, how can I get educated? What can we do to help?’ Now we want to build a framework for individuals, for clubs, for organizations to understand what exactly it means to be anti-racist versus just saying no to racism and how they can impact their communities and specifically their clubs and build a framework so that they can then build a culture that will be anti-racist in nature.”
Said Roberts: “This is beyond needed. We need to hold clubs accountable. A lot of times we saw last year [organizations] would put out a little statement and think that’s that. Then we speak up and use our platforms and they are all of the sudden shocked to hear about what is going on. These things have been going on for some time now, and we need to fix every single miniscule notion in regards to injustice and the little biases that sometimes we don’t see.”
ARSC will address the lack diversity among coaching staffs. For instance, the Charlotte Independence just hired their first Black coach, Brian Haynes, six years after its inaugural season. Yet the Independence is not alone when it comes to lack of diversity among coaching staff and the front office.
ARSC introduced a 10-point plan, with examples, to guide individual clubs, supporter groups and leagues toward a more equitable soccer sphere. The plan:
1. Invest resources into our communities to further diversity, equity, and inclusion
2. Increase representation to reflect the community and sport in which we operate
3. Educate our community about racism and anti-racist behaviors
4. Support the protest or removal of the National Anthem from pregame
5. Provide a platform for all players to speak openly and freely about social injustices and inequality
6. Expand access to the sport and work towards equitable play
7. Commit to actively working to end police brutality
8. Pledge to increase support for Black-owned and Black-led organizations
9. Partner with organizations that will support anti-racist efforts
10. Make matches more accessible and more inviting to marginalized communities
Send this page to a friend