News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Sat. June 17, 2023: In honor of Juneteenth 2023, Major League Soccer, (MLS), has announced the launch of its annual Juneteenth initiative for 2023, titled “The Seeds We Plant. The Flowers We Share.” Additionally, select MLS matches will feature the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This began on June 14 and continued throughout the weekend’s games on June 17th.
The initiative is inspired by the artwork of Black artist Gianni Lee and aims to honor the contributions of Black Americans while raising awareness about their significant role in soccer and society. The Juneteenth programs are a collaborative effort between MLS, clubs, and Black Players for Change, (BPC), an independent organization comprising Black MLS players, coaches, and staff working to bridge racial equality gaps.
Lee, the artist behind the design, emphasized the power of storytelling and its ability to spread information. Through the Juneteenth soccer jersey, Lee aimed to narrate the tale of African cultural unity in the diaspora and demonstrate its flourishing presence within American society. His design incorporates a “blue hand” motif, symbolizing this unity.
The 2023 Juneteenth initiatives by MLS continue their commitment to drive positive social change and promote racial reconciliation. In November 2021, MLS introduced updates and enhancements to its Diversity Hiring Policy for sporting positions within clubs, with a specific focus on hiring Black candidates. In March 2022, MLS made history by securing a $25 million loan exclusively from a syndicate of Black banks, facilitated by the National Black Bank Foundation. Through previous Juneteenth celebrations, MLS has already raised over $300,000 for local organizations supporting Black communities in MLS cities. The proceeds from this year’s Juneteenth initiatives will also benefit organizations uplifting Black communities in MLS markets.
Renowned photographer and founder of Charcoal Pitch F.C, Mel D. Cole, has been chosen as the creative lead for the Juneteenth campaign. Cole, in collaboration with Gianni Lee, has designed the 2023 MLS Juneteenth-inspired collectible jerseys titled “The Seeds We Plant. The Flowers We Share.” Cole, from the agency Charcoal Pitch F.C, highlighted the alignment of Juneteenth’s values with his agency’s principles, emphasizing the importance of freedom. He mentioned the agency’s commitment to ensuring authentic representation of Black individuals throughout the campaign, from involving talented artist Gianni Lee to hiring professionals who understand and resonate with the significance of Juneteenth.
These jerseys will be autographed by players including Jamaican national Akeem Ward and Omar Cummings as well as Noah Delgado of Puerto Rico and Fafa Picault of Haiti. They will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefiting organizations that make a positive impact on the Black community in each MLS club’s local market. Additionally, a commemorative patch representing each of the 29 MLS clubs has been designed to complement the unique jerseys.
Fans can participate in the auctions by visiting MLSauctions.com. Further, fans will have the opportunity to purchase patches and numbers from the Black Players For Change website, apart from bidding on the collectible jerseys.
Tunde Oguntimein, Vice President of the Commissioner’s Office of Major League Soccer, expressed the importance of recognizing Juneteenth as a significant moment in American history and celebrating the freedom, contributions, and rights of Black Americans. He highlighted the pride in partnering with Black Players For Change and collaborating with Mel D. Cole and Gianni Lee to capture the cultural significance of Juneteenth.
Earl Edwards Jr., President of Black Players For Change, emphasized that Juneteenth allows reflection on history and appreciation for the progress made. He commended the collaboration between Black Players For Change and MLS, citing the Juneteenth jersey as a testament to the remarkable work accomplished together. Edwards also expressed anticipation for fans to witness the final jersey, enhanced by the contributions of Cole and Lee.