KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Nani called it beautiful and emotional.
He wasn't talking about either goal he played a part in during Orlando City's 2-1 victory over Inter Miami on Wednesday night.
Nearly 200 players took the field for an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence to protest racial injustice before Major League Soccer’s return to action. Players wore black T-shirts, black gloves and black facemasks emblazoned with Black Lives Matter. The shirts had varying slogans that included Black And Proud, Silence Is Violence and Black All The Time.
The players walked toward midfield, raised their right arms one at a time and held the pose so long that some could be seen stretching fatigued muscles afterward.
It was a poignant moment that put two of the nation’s most prominent changes over the last four months — masks and movements — at the forefront of the sport’s return.
“I felt for a couple of minutes,” Nani said shortly after scoring the go-ahead goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time. “We all want to change the world. We want a better world — no differences, no discrimination. ... Everyone in the world should stop for a couple of minutes and think about our children and teach them how to be a better person and create a better world.”
The group setting the tone was formerly called the Black Players Coalition of MLS but changed its name this week to Black Players for Change. Originally announced on Juneteenth, the group started in the wake of George Floyd’s death with the hope of combating systemic racism both in soccer and the players’ communities. The league and the players’ union endorsed the organization.
Several other players from Orlando City and Inter Miami took a knee near midfield during the demonstration.