Washington, D.C. has seen some of the biggest crowds of protesters anywhere in the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota police last month. Now the team that represents the United States’ capital in the planet’s most popular sport has made its support for those protesters clear.
Major League Soccer club D.C. United has painted “I can’t breathe” and “BLM” — the abbreviation for Black Lives Matter — across the playing surface at Audi Field on Sunday. Floyd, an unarmed African-American, told then-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin he couldn’t breath as Chauvin pressed his knee into the handcuffed man’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Chauvin was fired and charged with second-degree murder.
“We’re deeply upset and vehemently condemn the actions that led to the death of George Floyd,” the club said in the statement released last week. Longtime coach Ben Olsen told the Washington Post that he is “completely supportive of the outrage that is going on.
“I am doing a lot of soul-searching,” said Olsen, who is white. “My eyes are a little more open to the struggles that [members of the black community] have in this country. I’m sad. I’m angry.”
The display of solidarity comes just two days after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed a street near the White House in honor of Black Lives Matter and painted those words on it in giant block capital letters stretching across several city blocks. Last Monday, peaceful protesters were tear-gassed by authorities before the District’s 7 p.m. curfew to clear a so that President Trump — who spent part of last weekend holed up in the residence’s underground bunker as tensions flared — could have his picture taken holding a bible at nearby St. John’s Church. More than 4,500 National Guard troops have been deployed to Washington in response to the demonstrations.
D.C. United has not played at Audi Field since March, when the MLS season was suspended in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the league and its players union ratified a new-collective bargaining agreement that included a deal to resume play in July with a World Cup-style tournament for its 26 team in Orlando, Florida.