MLS introduces a “first-of-its-kind restorative policy” to combat discrimination

Soccer players who are victims of discrimination could have the opportunity to meet with the alleged perpetrator under a “first-of-its-kind redress policy” introduced by Major League Soccer and its players.

Soccer is more in the spotlight than ever in the United States and Canada, thanks in no small part to Lionel Messi’s blockbuster move to Inter Miami last summer.

The ever-evolving MLS and the Major League Soccer Players Association have now introduced a new, jointly agreed anti-discrimination policy ahead of the start of the 2024 season next week.

The league says the policy is “the first of its kind in professional sports as it focuses on restorative practices and emphasizes education, prevention, training and cultural awareness.”

Sola Winley, MLS Chief Engagement and Inclusion Officer, said: “Implementing something like this is no easy task.

“It takes not only many bright minds, but also many big hearts to think outside the box and build a culture based on dignity and respect.

“And to build a culture that can lead not only in the football landscape around the world, but also in the sports landscape and beyond.”

MLSPA General Counsel Eric Harrington said, “By using culturally inclusive training to prevent discrimination and restorative practices to address it when it occurs, we can prevent discrimination and support players who are harmed by it, while also providing a path to healing for everyone.”

This innovative policy is a significant step towards making the game more inclusive for all of us and setting an example for all sports

Earl Edwards Jr

MLS, the MLSPA and the nonprofit Black Players for Change worked together to develop the policy and a new cross-cultural awareness training program required for all players and staff.

Earl Edwards Jr, New England Revolution goalkeeper and president of Black Players for Change, said: “All players deserve to play this game free from discrimination and to have our cultures welcomed, included and respected.”

“This innovative policy is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive game for all of us and setting an example for the sport as a whole.”

Under the new policy, recovery plans include the opportunity for an alleged perpetrator to make amends to those harmed by their behavior.

Additionally, those who accept responsibility and engage in a recovery plan will face less severe disciplinary action from the league than if they deny committing the act and are subsequently found to be untruthful or misleading.

“Players have the opportunity to participate if they wish,” Winley added. “We don’t force that.

“We hope there are ways for players to come together, apologize and hear the work that others have been through. We create this space and this environment for that to happen.”

“Playing As One” workshops were held during preseason, where MLS greats helped, among other things, explain banned terms and develop cultural awareness in a league with more than 80 nationalities.

It’s easy to suspend people. The hard work is in rehabilitation and reintegration, and we are committed to doing that hard work

Sola Winley

“We decided the best way to do this was to build bridges of understanding and have conversations based on curiosity,” Winley said.

“To give people grace when they make mistakes, but to be clear: We move from a position of strength, not a position of weakness.” And being compassionate doesn’t mean you’re weak.

“It’s easy to suspend people. The hard work is in rehabilitation and reintegration, and we are committed to doing that hard work.

“This may not always be preferred in a court of public opinion, but if we stay true to our values ​​and the goals that we have, then we feel good about the process and feel very good about it.” The result will be.”

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