No way they could play: MLS players protest latest police brutality against a Black person

I'll probably always remember San Jose Earthquakes-Portland Timbers, Aug. 26, 2020 -- even though it was a game never played.

Two hours before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff, my editor-in-chief Paul Kennedy texted me that the game would very likely be canceled. Within minutes, I drove into the Earthquakes Stadium parking lot to go through the efficient COVID safety protocol for a game that would be without fans -- but the first hosted by the Quakes since the MLS is Back "bubble" tournament. I asked the parking lot attendant if the game was still on. He understandably might not have been able to follow the news of NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS players' action during the previous few hours in response to Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer Rusten Sheskey shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back as Blake retreated into his car. The attendant responded, "Because of air quality or the protests?"

The California fires are still raging, but the Bay Area air quality had improved significantly. The attendant said he had not been updated on the game status, took my temperature, and double-checked my health questionnaire. I parked and headed to the stadium.

I felt fortunate to get a credential to attend this game that few were allowed in for, and was curious to see what it would be like without fans. But a few fans were driving in, because Earthquakes Stadium has an amazing big screen outside of the north-end goal, across the street from the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. Planes fly close enough I bet that passengers on the left side can see the soccer action. The Earthquakes planned an excellent drive-in viewing party for season-ticket holders.

We had the cleanest air in more than a week. Heat wave turned to wonderful weather. It seemed like the perfect evening for soccer. But it was anything but.

I called Paul Kennedy after the text. He updated me on the news -- the latest out of Wisconsin and pro sports' reaction -- I hadn't followed because during my drive from Oakland I chose to listen to music -- I'm a news junkie and in these times I have to force myself to take a break. I felt selfish for hoping that they would still play -- but I knew they probably wouldn't because Paul's predictions are always accurate.

Then I stopped on way to the gate and spent a few minutes staring into my iPhone. The Blake shooting video, confirmation of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation about the shots into Blake's back, the arrest of a white male teenage shooter during the protests.

An Earthquakes official told us through the fence that the game was canceled. But communication was difficult because of the COVID precautions that required separating the various groups. Even he wasn't allowed to move from his zone to the players and coaches' zone, and he could only cautiously, from a distance, speak to the media.

The Portland Timbers tweeted that they wouldn't play, then the Quakes sent their statement. This game would have been a 10:30 pm ET kickoff and there had already been the cancellations of the games in MLS, NBA, WNBA and MLB. The NBA had already been talking boycott on Monday -- and while we were standing outside the Earthquakes Stadium gates, there were reports that NBA players on the Lakers and Clippers proposed ending the season altogether.

A big red truck with a Quakes flag entered the parking lot for the drive-in viewing party, followed by a convertible Mercedes, and they were informed about the cancellation. They were ensured of a refund and took in stride. Other cars followed and some attendants with gloved hands gave them Quakes souvenirs in a plastic bag as a consolation while instructing them where to make U-turns.

Six weeks ago, when MLS returned the play, the tournament started with a silent protest for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd's neck when he died on May 25. The group Black Players for Change had launched -- but the protests against racial injustice in the USA were supported by MLS players of all backgrounds and various nationalities. The Chicago Fire played a game during which every player wore a jersey with the name of a black victim of police brutality.

At Earthquakes Stadium, the Portland Timbers players left by bus, the Quakes players followed later in their own cars. Because of COVID, we couldn't interview them. Even if the match had been played, the post-game press conference was going to be on closed-circuit TV. But once again the MLS players -- and officials -- explained through social media their views on injustices that need to be addressed.

Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha said, "The conversation shouldn’t be about sport today. There are far bigger things going on."

It was only last week we got back on an Oakland soccer field coaching kids, and despite restrictions to prevent the COVID spread, it was so wonderful to watch them enjoying the sport. At Tuesday's practice, I bragged about going to watch the Earthquakes on Wednesday. I didn't know at the time that it would be a game not played because pro athletes cared about these kids' futures.

48 comments about "No way they could play: MLS players protest latest police brutality against a Black person".
  1. frank schoon, August 27, 2020 at 9:34 a.m.

    "There are far bigger things going on."...You're right, I think those  particular MLS players should quit professional soccer, join their nearest Police Academy, since their Devefopmental Soccer Academy didn't do much for them anyway, and become Police Officers and show how it is suppose to be done. Allow them to cruise around areas and try to handle or deal with those citizens who don't want to listen to police instructions and allow that to play out and see what happens...

    Their actions without even knowing all the facts of what really happened in Wisconsin tells you enough what a bunch of sheep they are. 

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, August 27, 2020 at 6:28 p.m.

    Frank, true we don't have "all" the facts yet, but there is enough to indict. I am interested in what the police audio recordings show. Self defense requires a reasonable belief that one's life is in danger. (The exact wording varies from state to state, but that is the essence of it."

    An unarmed man was shot multiple times in the back as he was entering the car containing his children. I don't know what the local police policy was on use of force, but the video clip is not good. Shooting someone in the back in front of their children is inflammatory. Anyone can testify that they reasonably feared for their life, but a jury decides the facts. This is the kind of case you cut a deal on.

  3. frank schoon replied, August 27, 2020 at 6:54 p.m.

    Bob, unarmed???  Check out my my post near the bottom. 

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, August 27, 2020 at 7:46 p.m.

    Frank, you linked someone's blog. They had already deleted the post so I didn't get to see it. There are conflicting reports that Black had a knife. Specifically one report was that there was a knife in the car while another said he was told to "drop" the knife as he walked to the car, implying that he had a knife in his hand before he went to the car. If you watch the video clip, you see his hands are empty.

  5. frank schoon replied, August 27, 2020 at 8:01 p.m.

    Bob, I checked it out is still there.
    See website 'ninetymilesfromtyranny'..scroll down aways  and you will find it

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, August 28, 2020 at 12:14 a.m.

    That image is not evidence that Blake was holding a knife. 

  7. frank schoon replied, August 28, 2020 at 9:11 a.m.

    Bob, as a astute defense attorney what would be you're rational? It was his car key or it was a Bic pen for he went around  the car to get a note and write down the nice officers name and badge number...But then again , I've never seen someone holding a pen or car key like that....

  8. frank schoon replied, August 28, 2020 at 11:05 a.m.

    Bob, just read that the AG of Wisconsing  stated that the knife was recovered from Blake's vehicle after the shooting and claim he (Blake) was reaching for the knife or it fell from his hand when he was riddled with bullets by the cop.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, August 28, 2020 at 1:48 p.m.

    Frank, that was part of what I was referring to as conflicting reports. Being unarmed vs. having a knife in his car vs. having a knife in his hand.

    There is not yet a report that Blake attacked anyone, either with or without a weapon. 

    The video clip does not show Blake attacking anyone or even moving toward anyone (except his children in the car).

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, August 28, 2020 at 1:52 p.m.

    Frank I see people with electronic locks holding car keys exactly like that as they approach the car every day.

  11. frank schoon replied, August 28, 2020 at 2:15 p.m.

    Bob, a cop doesn't have to be attacked to shoot... If he asks you to drop the weapon and you don't ,it depends upon the cop's judgement if he feels  his life is endangered. Seeing that this person just had a physical encounter with 2 cops just prior and there was a knife involved in the overal incident caused some serious havoc. To think that they found a knife lying on the floor board of the car implying that is where he places his knife for these types of circumstances is a stretch...

    I think what he had in his hand was a knife and it fell out his hand falling onto the floor board upon being shot.
    But like  I stated before, we  need to know the facts first and therefore I say so many made their minds up prior. 

  12. beautiful game replied, August 28, 2020 at 4:03 p.m.

    Fifty-two years ago two American Olympians stood on the podium to accept their medals with their black gloves raised for everyone to see in order to protest against racism. They were ostracized for decades for 'dishonoring' the American flag while the U.S. National Anthem was played. Fast forward; and  today, this forum has identified bloggers who dismiss the MLS players right to protest against racism. It is unfortunate that lessons not learned keep repeating to make the great divide greater. Civility and empathy for many has been seated in the back of the bus for far too long. 

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, August 29, 2020 at 12:40 p.m.

    Frank, police are subject to the same criminal laws as ordinary citizens. On top of that, they have to comply with department policy as a term of their employment. Being in compliance with department policy is something to consider in a criminal case, but does not bar conviction of murder or assault.

    The problem with your explanation (that he was carrying a knife as he entered his car) is that it is not by itself legal justification to use deadly force. If he was getting out of the car moving towards the officer, that would be a significantly different situation. But with Blake's back turned and walking away, that is difficult to interpret as a threat. Cops are not legally allowed to shoot someone they are arresting for their convenience.

    From the clip I saw, in 20-20 hindsight, it appeared that the officers demonstrated how not to make an arrest.

    I would question the drawing of weapons except that reports are that this was a felony arrest. I expect most policies require weapons be ready when making at least some felony arrests. So the policy question here is when are police allowed to shoot during a felony arrest.

  14. Santiago 1314 replied, August 30, 2020 at 12:55 p.m.

    @Bob, can you think of 1 Good Reason, after being Tazed TWICE, Fighting with Police,  that Blake went around the Van and into the Drivers Seat Of The Car.??? ... He was either going for "Something" (Gun, knife, IED, Bubble Gum, Drivers Liscence, ...etc...etc.???) or He was going to Drive Off.!!! Blake put his Own Children in Danger, If He got in the Drivers Seat, He could have driven, Initiating a "Police Chase", again Endangering his kids.!!! This Guy is Not Worth the "Over Reaction" to his Bad Choices.!!!

  15. Ginger Peeler, August 27, 2020 at 12:24 p.m.

    Mike, thanks for an informative, insightful report on our MLS (along with professional basketball [men's and women's] and baseball's) decision to cancel yesterday's games to "protest the latest police brutality against a black person".  

    This time people can't say the protests are only about dishonoring our National Anthem or the Flag of the United States.

    This is, and has always been, about overkill. Literally.  It was protested in the Olympics years ago and by Kaepernick 4 years ago. It hasn't gone away in all that time. People have been protesting in our cities for weeks now. Yet, still, these egregious actions take place. Often the police say they acted out of fear for their lives. Grabbing hold of the back of someone's shirt and then shooting them point blank in the back seven times just doesn't fit that scenario. Hopefully, the police and the administrators of our local towns and cities will work out the resolutions necessary to solve the problem, together. 

  16. Santiago 1314 replied, August 29, 2020 at 6:22 a.m.

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 8/28/20 "Police had been called to the scene for family trouble. There was a warrant for Blake's arrest from earlier third-degree felony sexual assault and domestic violence charges." ..."state Justice Department investigators saying officers used a taser twice on the 29-year-old man but were unable to subdue him and later shot him seven times in the back."..."union attorney Brendan Matthews said Blake refused to follow commands and violently resisted, despite being tasered twice, and at one point put an officer in a headlock.

    "The officers first saw him holding the knife while they were on the passenger side of the vehicle," he said." ...
    Why is Everyone getting "Worked Up" over this Guy.??? Not a "Hill to Die On" 
    You all who Jumped to Conclusions are The Problem.!!! Not the Police, doing their Job.!!!

  17. Guy Walling, August 27, 2020 at 2:05 p.m.

    Frank what kind of sheep are you? Is there any justification of shooting someone unarmed in the back 7 freakin times? What about just tackling the guy and handcuff him? These great professionals athletes are just trying to use their platform, something our sorry ass president isn't doing. Can someone just listen with sympathy and empathy! 

  18. frank schoon replied, August 27, 2020 at 2:32 p.m.

    Guy, I'll wait till I get the facts before I go off like those idiots did in Ferguson and ruin an innocent cops life; or like some idiots  that lay some of the blame somehow on Trump. And as far as tackling and restraining the guy, they tried that on the other side of the car and failed, even tasing him which didn't work and proceeded to walk off...So let's just wait until we get more answers. Oh, by the way, the medical examiner in the George Floyd's case found in the toxicology exam fatal level of Fentanyl...we'll see how will be resolved in the court...

  19. John Kukitz replied, August 27, 2020 at 5:13 p.m.

    Blake was a criminal in possession of a knife and did not obey the officer's commands.  They were within their right to protect themselves when he tried to enter his vehicle.  I'm sick and tired of people trying to make heros out of career criminals.  If you obey the law, there is a chance you will never have an encounter with a police officer.  No one from MLS seems to care about the black on black crime occuring in major cities around the country!

  20. John Kukitz replied, August 27, 2020 at 5:18 p.m.

    put down the cool aid and open your eyes.  career criminals do not deserve special status.  if you refuse to obey lawful commands by the police, you deserve the consequenses.  police officers have families and want to go home to them after each shift.

  21. Chuck Redding replied, August 27, 2020 at 5:41 p.m.

    Your blaming President Trump...WOW

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, August 27, 2020 at 6:40 p.m.

    Frank, none of what you said justifies shooting the man in the back as he climbed into his car. I am just glad that one of the kids wasn't killed. I cannot imagine a police policy that would allow the use of deadly force under these circumstances. Police do not have dispensation to use deadly force for their own convenience.

  23. Bob Ashpole replied, August 27, 2020 at 6:42 p.m.

    John, entering a vehicle is not even an assault, much less an assault justifying the use of deadly force. 

  24. John Bauman, August 27, 2020 at 2:46 p.m.

    What ever happened to innocent until PROVEN guilty?
    I can solve the problem in 12 words or less:
    1- Don't break the law!
    2- Obey the lawful order of the police!

  25. Peter Bechtold, August 27, 2020 at 2:47 p.m.

    Frank S.: I am ashamed by your comments. Pls don't tell anyone that you once were enrolled at UMD-CP. This is more than embarrassing.
    Do you get your twisted information from Fox only ? With your personal background I would hope that you consult BBC Worldservice daily as I do.

  26. frank schoon replied, August 27, 2020 at 3:21 p.m.

    Peter, BBC, was once great ,a long ,long time ago, and now it's a leftwing rag.....
    We obviously watch different news stations. You probably watch the once who report on peaceful riots that are going on where as I see most of them being vomited by leftwing agitators....Sorry to say ,I don't have much good to say over BLM either.....

    And as far as UMD goes, I no longer give much credence to the what these universities have become but Indoctrination centers.....I was lucky to have gone to college before all this leftwing rot has set in.....

  27. John Bauman, August 27, 2020 at 2:53 p.m.

    Guilty until proven innocent seems to br the new mantra. The pitch is for soccer, if I did this I'd get fired. Any wonder why so many people watch the English Premier League!  These guys are not as good as they think they are, and now this?  A good way to turn thier few remaining viewers off!  

  28. R M, August 27, 2020 at 3:35 p.m.

    @John B - nailed it! 

  29. John Kukitz, August 27, 2020 at 5:15 p.m.

    totally agree Frank Schoon.  Facts are stubborn things.

  30. frank schoon, August 27, 2020 at 5:21 p.m.

    Guys, here is the picture of this wonderful gentleman walking around the car with a real nasty looking knife in his hands 


  31. John Soares, August 27, 2020 at 6:28 p.m.

    Apparently everyone, including players have a right to express their beliefs and opinions..... as long as they agree with me :)

  32. Mike Woitalla, August 27, 2020 at 11 p.m.

    According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Jacob S. Blake did not have a knife in his hand.
    "While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back."

  33. Guy Walling, August 28, 2020 at 12:54 a.m.

    I know one fact: whether he had a knife or not (official police report stated that there was no knife in hand) how can you shoot someone in the back 7 freakin times? If he had a gun in his hand, then maybe...just maybe. Maybe Blake committed a crime but did he deserve to get shot 7 times in the back???My God how can you blame the MLS wanting to protest? This isn't a police state!! But it is a racist country, so I can see why some of you are making cold statements about death! This is someone's son, this is someone's father. He didn't deserve to get shot 7 times in the back. If you feel Blake does deserve that what does the white 17 y/o who shot and killed 2 people deserve...50 shots to the back? 

  34. Mike Woitalla replied, August 28, 2020 at 3:21 a.m.

    Exactly. Shooting someone in the back should be enough information to prompt the discussion toward the issues that should really be addressed, which include inefficiencies in police training and racial prejudice. There are complex challenges police face for various reasons that require more sophisticated training -- eg de-escalation techniques. Those who dedicate and risk their lives to "fight crime" are put into volatile situations they haven't been properly trained for and are asked to patrol communities that understandably distrust their authority because of a long history of a racist justice system. In an era where leadership exploits the strife to ensure his power instead of striving for unity and solutions, the athletes' voices provide hope that we really do care about all Americans.

  35. Bob Ashpole replied, August 28, 2020 at 1:59 p.m.

    Mike, these problems are so widespread that I wonder what might have changed in the use of force policies since the 1980s when I was a prosecutor dealing with those policies. I know that over those years those types of policies in the military, i.e., Rules of Engagement, became much more complicated, but generally increased the restrictions on use of force, which is the apparent opposite direction from the police agencies operating in our communities.

  36. Santiago 1314 replied, August 29, 2020 at 6:04 a.m.

    Guy, Bob, Mike ... You're being Sucked IN ... .. ARMED vs UN-ARMED ...Sounds like most of the shootings were Warranted ...  "The Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings showed 14 unarmed Black victims and 25 unarmed white victims in 2019." (USA Today 7/3/20) ... This is a minuscule Problem, that is being WAY Over-Hyped for Political and Financial Purposes ... 14.!!! Out of Approximately 1000 Police "Killings" per year ... That's WaPo data ... There was No "Reasons" given as to whether the 14 were Justified or Unjustified ... 14 and we Are willing to Put Up with Burning Cities and Accosting Senators and Shutting Down Sports .!?!?!?

  37. Bob Ashpole replied, August 29, 2020 at 11:07 a.m.

    Santiago, armed vs. unarmed is a key determining factor in use of force policies. So it isn't a distraction.

    Part of the problem with the media coverage of this and any other topic, is that most people today have a 15 second attention span for news. Most people also want video, not print journalism. So there isn't any in depth reporting. With the pace set by 24/7 cable news stations, everyone is racing to put a 30 second clip together for the next story.

    The issues here are use-of-force policies, training in those policies, and enforcement of those policies. Yet I haven't seen any media coverage of those issues. The media coverage is all pure sensationalism, which is really no meaningful coverage at all.

  38. Santiago 1314 replied, August 30, 2020 at 1:14 p.m.

    @Bob, on Media coverage being "Pure Sensationalism" we can Agree... And we need to make sure we Don't Get Drawn into Emotional and Violent "Over Reactions"... I actually have no problem with the Players "Sitting Out" games... Stops them from Kneeling during the National Anthem.!!! But they have "Over Played their Hand"; NOBODY IS LISTENING, NOBODY IS WATCHING,,, Nobody Cares what they say.!!! ... They have "Cancel Cultured" themselves.!!!

  39. Ken Fadner, August 28, 2020 at 5:33 a.m.

    Well said Mike ... and great reporting in your article.

  40. David Ruder, August 28, 2020 at 8:38 a.m.

    If they really want to make a lasting impact, they should stop playing period and go home.

  41. Sean Guillory, August 28, 2020 at 10:53 a.m.

    Mike, I agree with the training of inefficiencies of police training but racial profiling is done because it's a minority of black people that commit the crime at a rate larger than the black population.  I am black and to be honest with you the statistics beat out that there is a problem in the black community.  If you really want to talk about it let's do it.  What about the lack of fathers in the black community that has increased by 40 percent since the 60s...has nothing to do with the police.  What about the amount of black crime against each other  which has always been a problem in the community, has nothing to do with the police.  Also what about the increase of abortions in the black community which is higher by a percentage than whites.  Has nothing to do with the police.  I don't care if the athletes protest.  To be honest with you I don't care if some ever come back, MLS and NBA especially.  However, they are not protesting anything because they are missing all of the other more important and salient issues affecting my community.

  42. Bob Ashpole replied, August 28, 2020 at 2:01 p.m.

    You have to be careful drawing conclusions from "data". The arrest data is going to reflect bias in enforcement, more than crimes committed.

  43. Oswald Dwyer, August 29, 2020 at 2:08 p.m.

    It is so hearbreaking to see and read all the hate filled diatribe from people who make up soccer's fan community. This sport, the "poor people game" has a long way to go in stamping out decades of institutional racisim and discrimination. The ingrained and unconscious belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race must end. Fortunately in this time, people of every color and creed are standing up for the rights of all humans not to be shot, killed beaten and put in cages as part of a real and relentlessly evil system. To repeat what has been championed before, until bigotry, prejudice, malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding, tolerance and good will, and until basic human rights are equally guranteed to all without regard to race, there will always be a struggle of good over evil and for the disappearance of discrimination and oppression from the earth.

  44. Ken Fadner replied, August 30, 2020 at 7:18 a.m.

    Agree with what you said, Oswald

  45. Guy Walling, August 29, 2020 at 3:20 p.m.

    And one more thing, to all you Kenneth Bauer's, John Polis's, Frank Schoon's, John Foust's and Santiago's above: I have been an athlete and I have had my sister shot to death by a policeman who killed first and asked questions later. He got 7 years my sister got death! She was unarmed and not physically resisting! I speak with experience! The police need reformed! So don't go talking about your freakin statistics and asking to get my facts straight? Trust me, I do. One death is too many!

  46. Ken Fadner replied, August 30, 2020 at 7:12 a.m.

    You've spoken from the heart, Guy. What you've said should guide what we do.

  47. Santiago 1314 replied, August 30, 2020 at 1:21 p.m.

    Guy; Back up that Statement about your Sister... Case and Court please.???

  48. P Van, August 29, 2020 at 7:23 p.m.

    One thing I've noted in reading through these posts, as I also have elsewhere when reading about issues like these, is that the commenters who support progressive policies and acknowledge basic truths like our country's history of discrimination against people of color, present better articulated and reasoned commentary. They acknowledge the complexity of the issues without being defensive. They're open-minded and empathetic. Sadly, the ratio of ignorance, racism, and cynicism is still very high. No wonder we have such an inarticulate, ignorant president and administration in Washington. A good percentage of our citizens possess these qualities as well. And profess them just as wildly and enthusiastically. The liberal media and universities are filled with people who write well; that generally means they think well. They've spent their lives studying the issues. So many commenters here come off as hateful, small-minded, defensive jerks. I'm pleased that so many athletes are speaking up thoughtfully and with real empathy about the racism on the pitch and beyond. It makes positive change more likely.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications