There was a smattering of boos when players from FC Dallas and Nashville SC collectively took a knee during the national anthem before their MLS game Wednesday night in Frisco, Texas.
Dallas defender Reggie Cannon said he was disgusted by the boos at Toyota Stadium when players and officials knelt to call attention to racial injustice. He said teammate Ryan Hollingshead turned to him afterward and said he was sorry.
“You can’t even have support from your own fans in your own stadium. It’s baffling to me,” Cannon said. “As a team we try to give the best possible product on the field and these last six months have been absolute hell for us. Absolute hell.”
Dallas and Nashville had not played a game since the season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus. While Major League Soccer’s other teams played in the MLS is Back tournament in Florida over the past month, Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw before the start because of positive COVID-19 tests among players from both teams.
The teams met Wednesday as MLS restarts the regular season. Some of the games will include fans if local jurisdictions allow it. Just over 5,000 were allowed to attend the match at Toyota Stadium, although the crowd that showed up appeared smaller.
Nashville won the game, 1-0. The two teams meet again Sunday.
The death of George Floyd has spurred a number of MLS players to form the group Black Players for Change, which seeks to address systemic racism in soccer and society. Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground for nearly eight minutes.
At the opening game of the MLS tournament in Florida, members of Black Players for Change collectively stood in silence, fists raised, for several minutes. Players and coaches also wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts throughout the event.
The anthem was not played before games at the tournament. Cannon said the players had asked that it not be played before the game because they didn’t feel it was right “for the anthem to be played in this moment.”
“We had someone chanting U.S.A., but they don’t understand what kneeling means. They don’t understand why we’re kneeling. They can’t see the reason. They think we’re the ignorant ones,” Cannon said. “It’s incredibly frustrating. I’m sorry to have this tone, but you have to call it for what it is.”
Cannon said he expected to have some pushback over the unified response.
“It hurts me because I love our fans, I love this club, and I want to see the support that the league has given us, that everyone has given us, from our fans,” he said.