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Philadelphia Union veteran Ray Gaddis one of the leaders of Black Players Coalition

“We’re advocating to break down barriers, not only within the soccer world, but also educationally, also in the medical field, also day-to-day things that people have to go through that look like me”

Photo by Heather Barry

Ray Gaddis said ‘’racism isn’t about white or black,’’ talked about the support he’s received from the Philadelphia Union and reflected on protests in Indianapolis during a Zoom call with media on Monday.

The defender helped form the Black Players Coalition of MLS and is a board member for the coalition that was announced on Juneteenth last Friday.

‘’Now, I think for far too long, we’ve never really got to the issue of racism,” he said. “Racism isn’t about white or black. For me personally, it’s a heart posture situation. It’s a mentality. It’s something that’s learned. And it’s also something that can be unlearned. You weren’t born to be racist. You weren’t born having hate or bigotry in your heart, you know, these are things that have been set and taught.’’

The 30-year-old went on to reflect on protests he attended in his home city of Indianapolis after George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. Gaddis wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt when he returned to training with the team in Delaware.

‘’It was important to advocate, promote peace also in my city,” he said. “You know, I wasn’t alone... So many athletes really came home and really got behind a band of people... It wasn’t just African Americans or people of color, and that was a blessing to see.’’

Former Union forward CJ Sapong is another one the board members of the group, which is led by Toronto FC veteran defender Justin Morrow. The group secured $75,000 in charitable contributions by the MLS Players Association and is in conversations with sponsors to support various initiatives and community efforts.

“We’re advocating to break down barriers, not only within the soccer world, but also educationally, also in the medical field, also day-to-day things that people have to go through that look like me,” Gaddis said.

When asked about the awareness among his teammates and how manager Jim Curtin has been vocal about it, Gaddis said it’s been “a pleasure to have a coach who’s understanding. I mean, we’re in Philadelphia, Philadelphia is a historic city. And I think that his cultural awareness of everything that’s transpired even before he’s gotten here and his understanding as a coach, especially dealing from the academy down... I think he has a sense of awareness to understand that this is important.”

Gaddis said he has also felt the support from his teammates and across the entire organization.

“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,” Gaddis said. “That says a lot about collectively what the Philadelphia Union stands for.”