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Curtin: ‘I expect to play tomorrow’

Amidst player strikes protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, the game Saturday at Subaru Park is still on

Multiple games have been postponed this week already in MLS and other professional sports leagues amidst player protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin, but tomorrow’s Philadelphia Union game against D.C. United is still on.

“I do expect to play the game Saturday,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said Friday. “We prepared like we’re playing tomorrow.”

The Union played on Tuesday night, but after the Milwaukee Bucks opted of an NBA playoff game in Florida on Wednesday, all but one of the six MLS games on the calendar were postponed by a decision from the players to sit out the game in solidarity.

Curtin said he was “incredibly proud and supportive of what the players in the NBA the WNBA, the MLS, did Wednesday night.”

“To be clear, this is a player driven movement, and they deserve the credit,” Curtin said. “It’s not good when others maybe twist and turn the narrative and make it political. But again, very powerful from the players in full support of them... They’re moving for just better treatment of human beings is really what this is about, and those that want to make it about politics and different agendas it’s not right.”

Union defender Mark McKenzie brought up the Jacob Blake shooting in his post-game interview on the live broadcast and again on a Zoom call with media Tuesday night.

“He’s shot seven times in the back in front of his children, his three sons in the back seat,” McKenzie told reporters. “What does that do for them now the traumatic experience at such a young age, to see that happen to a father? This is a reality of being black in America and even with all the quote unquote progress we tried to make you take another 10 steps back and so again we are still waiting on justice for Breonna Taylor’s killers. Now we’re demanding justice for Jacob Blake.”

The Union will face a D.C. United team on the opposite end of the Eastern Conference standings on Saturday night. The Union sit in third place on 12 points, D.C. United in 12th with 6 points and just one win through their first 7 league matches.

Talk about soccer and the game was muted by Curtin’s comments about the ongoing issues of systematic racism and inequality his players have been outspoken about since they wore the names of black victims of police brutality on their jerseys in their first game in the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.

“Right now soccer is completely secondary to what’s going on in the world and the police reform that needs to happen and the treatment of African Americans in this country,” Curtin said. “It’s been too long, it needs to change. And look, soccer is certainly not even a backseat. It’s not even in the car in this discussion for me.”

Curtin opened and closed his presser thanking the fans and efforts from the Sons of Ben and Keystone State Ultras to provide support at Tuesday’s game. Though the stadium was empty, the supporters covered the River End with Tifo and several hung out outside the stadium making as much noise as they could while following the game on screens.

“I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “They want to be in there so bad. You can feel the energy, the passion, the smoke’s there, but they’re not allowed in yet.”