FC Dallas players make statement for social change

When the FC Dallas players boarded two buses in preparation for their flight to Orlando last weekend, Reggie Cannon emerged from the locker room with a stack of shirts.

Gone were the usual black adidas polo shirts, replaced with shirts that showed the FC Dallas logo. Above the club crest was ‘history must not repeat itself’ and #BLM on one of the sleeves.

FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon talks to fans about the team’s Black Lives Matters shirts before boarding a bus en route to the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando (Dan Crooke)

“We wanted to have them for the traveling day,” FC Dallas winger Fafa Picault explained. “When you travel as a team, people see that. It’s an opportunity to express and show on social media what we represent and to use this platform of professional sport to show the fan base and other people who are affected by social injustice to know they have a team that is fully there to support and be a part of this movement.”

FC Dallas has frequently shied away from social issues. Long was the attitude that not supporting individual causes would offend fewer people, particularly for a team bearing the name of a liberal city such as Dallas while playing in a far more conservative suburb in Collin County.

Spurred on by players’ personal experiences, FC Dallas found its cause in something that is far more right from wrong than supporting a particular viewpoint. Soccer is a sport where social matters have always played a significant role, while FC Dallas is a team that is made up of two-thirds persons of color.

“Just with the history of Texas, being one of the last states to free slaves and seeing what’s been going on with right now with social injustice, but also FC Dallas being such a diverse club and such a diverse sport, I thought it was important to change what people see as normal,” said Picault. “It starts not just with black players, but it starts with black, white, Latino players, and all colors of players joining together and saying, “History Must Not Repeat Itself”.

FC Dallas began internal discussions as protests gripped the nation soon after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May.

Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez – of a multi-racial family himself – asked his players to share their different experiences with each other. From there FC Dallas held its ‘Candid Conversations’ discussion that featured Cannon and Picault, as well as Gonzalez and well-traveled goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer.

Picault’s experiences since moving to Plano alone have served as a jarring reminder of the different struggles people go through based on race. The former Philadelphia Union player detailed a routine of removing certain items of clothing and concealing jewelry to reduce his chance of being targeted, and even placing his wallet on the passenger seat of his car to not be seen as reaching for a weapon when stopped.

“We’re very honored to have Dan and Clark’s full support,” said Picault. “It’s nice when your club owners fully support us. And not only do they support us, but they’re very involved in this particular movement and bringing social justice. It’s been a group effort. Obviously, when you’ve suffered a lot of things being a black player and a black man period, you want to have a big involvement. They’ve been very hands-on and other player have taken initiative to jump on board and be a family through all this.”

Thank you to Garrett Melcer of FC Dallas for passing on the quotes. You can read his story on the shirts here.

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