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Chicago Fire, Red Stars release statements pledging action to combat racism

Will they follow through? We’ll be watching.

Portland Thorns FC v Chicago Red Stars

Both the Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars have put out statements in the last few days addressing the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, and the anger and protests that have ensued. The Fire released theirs on Tuesday, and the Red Stars unveiled theirs a day later.

Both clubs pledged to do specific things to combat racism. The Fire even went as far as to put a deadline for action on their statement—November 1, 2020. The Fire statement said by that date, the club would “unveil new programs intended to help combat racism and bring about positive change.”

The Red Stars didn’t post a deadline on theirs, but did put out a lengthy list of specific things they pledge to do as a club:

Meaningful education

We will partake in allyship training as a full organization, initially focused on supporting the black community and fighting against racism, and we will share the opportunity to participate with the broader community.

We will open lines of communication with players, supporters’ organizations, and local government – and then we will listen.

We will identify books, podcasts, documentaries, and other resources that will aid in our growth and understanding. We will share those with you, and we will discuss.

Better representation

We will present diverse artists, authors, illustrators, musicians, leaders, and athletes in our content.

We will use our privilege and position of influence to amplify black voices, LGBTQ voices, the voices of POC, the disabled, and other marginalized communities.

We will proactively look for opportunities to engage with minority-owned businesses when needs for vendors arise.

Ongoing Solidarity

We will not stop. The Red Stars will dedicate themselves to the lifelong of commitment that is true allyship. When the hashtags have quieted, we will remain steadfast next to you.

I’m posting both of these here, so months down the road, we can look back and see what actually happened. Did they live up to their promises? Did their actions actually do any good?

We’re in a ridiculous cycle in this country where terrible things happen, people get angry, people start spewing political talking points, and then something else happens and that terrible thing fades out of our minds, until the next time. We all have to work together to make sure that cycle ends.

Sports teams can do their part, but they can only do so much. Voting definitely matters, but I’d argue one of the biggest impacts you can make is by attending your city council meetings. Too often, we tend to think of politics only as the presidency or the congress, but so much of the nitty gritty happens at the state, county, and city levels. Put pressure on the people who create budgets and develop policy for your local police department. Use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain and inspect emails, texts, and other documents from your local officials. Don’t know how? It’s easy! Here’s a template to follow. If they have nothing to hide, they’ll probably work with you. If they refuse you, there are law firms who can sue on your behalf, often at no charge to you. FOIA can have a massive impact. The Laquan McDonald killing was exposed through a FOIA lawsuit by my old colleague at the Better Government Association, attorney Matt Topic.

As for policy, if you’re looking for ideas on what changes might help, Megan Rapinoe made some suggestions on Instagram:

Strongly worded statements might make us feel good, but they don’t really solve anything.

Statements pledging specific actions are better, so good on our two pro soccer teams for doing that. We’ll be watching to see what actually comes of those.

But, generating political pressure, sunshine, a fear of being exposed—those things matter a lot more than directing your outrage at the comms department of a local soccer team over specific wording of a statement. If we’re only active in the political process in the aftermath of terrible situations, and we’re not paying attention the rest of the time, we get what we get.