Major League Soccer clubs are marking Juneteenth with special jersey numbers and training jerseys for games this weekend.
The numbers and jerseys are part of a series of league-wide initiatives that are a collaboration between the league, its clubs and Black Players For Change, an independent group of Black players, coaches and staff “working to bridge the racial equality gap in soccer and society.”
The “Freedom to Be” jersey numbers were designed by Judah “Tip” Middleton, a Black queer artist who was born in Childersburg, Alabama, but is now based in Brooklyn, New York. The vibrant yellow, green and red colour palette represents the “blood, soil and prosperity of Africa and its people.” The design itself represents Black influence in culture and is meant to emphasize that we are stronger together.
“I am so excited to have the opportunity to create a design to celebrate the beauty and resilience of what Juneteenth represents,” Judah said on MLSsoccer.com. “The freedom to express what it means to me as a Black queer woman was liberating and I look forward to partnering with MLS and Black Players For Change to share this with the world.”
Like last year, game-worn jerseys with the special numbers from this weekend will be auctioned off on MLSauctions.com to benefit local charities in each MLS market “supporting and uplifting Black communities.” The jerseys will be shipped in limited-edition packaging that “illustrate[s] the history and importance of Juneteenth, and reinforce[s] the notion of “Freedom To Be,” emphasizing everyone’s inherent freedom to be their true selves in every facet of life.” The packaging includes the poem “Freedom” by African-American poet, novelist and social activist Langston Hughes.
Juneteenth is celebrated each year on June 19 and marks the day in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, “to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended,” the New York Times wrote in 2020. “General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.”
Along with the jersey numbers, MLS has rolled out “Unity” pre-match jerseys for every club. The jerseys feature a graphic with roses to represent the United States, bunchberries to represent Canada, and colours representing the home nations of various MLS players. This is the same pattern found on the official 2022 MLS match ball.
The pre-match tops have club crests in black and white on the left chest, and the logos of club’s usual training jersey sponsors in white on the chest. Some are placed in black boxes, while others have black outlines. Check them all out below: