Ray Gaddis, the nine-year MLS veteran and longest-tenured Union player on the roster, spoke with reporters yesterday via Zoom call to discuss his off-field efforts with the newly formed Black Players Coalition of MLS.
“We’re advocating to break down barriers not only within the soccer world, but also educationally, also in the medical field, and also day to day things that people have to go through that look like me,” said Gaddis.
The coalition was officially launched last Friday on Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. With its launch, Black Players Coalition board – of which Gaddis and former Philadelphia Union forward CJ Sapong are members – released the following press statement:
Gaddis expressed gratitude toward the positive response and support he and the Coalition have received since. “The reaction I’ve seen has been very positive, not just from the MLS player pool but an out-pour of praise and backing from various athletes in different professional sectors. Also, we’ve seen Major League Soccer, and our commissioner Don Garber takes the initiative to also back the Black Players Coalition as well,” said Gaddis.
And he’s been an outspoken force since he returned to training earlier this month.
Gaddis, the oftentimes soft-spoken energizer bunny of a right-back, spoke from the heart yesterday once more afternoon and delivered his message with clear intentions: advocate for change and lead by example.
“We can no longer turn the cheek or a blind eye to the subject matter of oppression of people of color,” said Gaddis.
Gaddis led by example earlier this month when he returned home to his native city of Indianapolis.
As of May of this year, Indianapolis remains the largest city in the country to not require police officers to wear body cameras. And growing concerns over a lack of police accountability reached a tipping point on May 6th.
On May 6th, Dreasjon “Sean” Reed was shot and killed by an Indianapolis police officer sparking thousands to protests in the streets demanding accountability. Those local protests in and around Indianapolis reached new heights after the tragic murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police earlier this month – the largest protest against racial inequality in at least 30 years according to the Indy Star.
Gaddis joined other notable athletes like George Hill, who recently reflected on racism with ESPN’s Eric Woodyard, and Tamika Catchings – both pro basketball icons in Indianapolis. Gaddis grew up with Hill and played at the local recreation center called the Tabernacle, which he referred to as “The Tab.” Catchings is a WNBA legend of sorts having completed all 15-years of her career with the Indiana Fever. They as well as thousands of other Indianapolis residents protested in hopes of change and police reform.
So far, there are initiatives in place to push for a mandatory requirement on body cams, increased training requirements for police, as well as reform of training procedures on a grand scale.
Gaddis also joined clergymen from Indianapolis in an all-faith protest the likes of which the mayor and governor attended. “It didn’t matter what faith you were with. So many people came out. It was important to advocate and promote peace in my city,” said Gaddis.
While Gaddis was active in his community back home, many fellow Black MLS players were wondering what they can do in MLS to help promote cultural awareness and address racial inequalities within their own league.
One player, in particular, Justin Morrow of Toronto FC, sort of spearheaded those efforts. He eventually called Gaddis and the two discussed what is now the Black Players Coalition.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea,” said Gaddis. “We were thinking what I was thinking. We just kept bouncing ideas off each other on ways we can help.”
And how do Gaddis and the Black Players Coalition plan on making lasting change and impacts?
“We’re advocating for the break down of barriers not only within the soccer world, but also educationally, also in the medical field, and also day to day things that people have to go through that look like me,” said Gaddis. “We want to be a part of the change that we hope to see. We’re watching. I know everybody else is watching. Change is happening every day and I’m happy to be a part of it in any capacity I can.”
And just as we mentioned earlier this month after Union head coach Jim Curtin delivered his own powerful statements during a routine weekly press conference, we’ll say it again: Philly should be proud.
To have players like Gaddis, Ale Bedoya, and Mark McKenzie – just to name a few – be outspoken advocates for racial equality and justice on your hometown team and living alongside fellow Philadelphia residents as neighbors is special and it’s not something to take lightly.
“If you haven’t caught on, this team is very informed, this team is very educated, this team is fighting for social reform, this team is fighting for what’s right on and off the field. That says a lot about collectively what the Philadelphia Union stands for,” said Gaddis.
And Philly should be proud.
PS – full video of Ray Gaddis media availability can be found HERE.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.