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MLS announces initiatives to combat racism, increase representation

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Hislop: MLS's new initiatives 'a big step' in combating racism (1:55)

Shaka Hislop reflects on Major League Soccer's initiatives to address racism and advocate for social justice. (1:55)

MLS has announced a series of programs and initiatives to address racism, advocate for social justice and increase representation in the sport.

The new programs include the formation of a diversity committee, civic engagement initiatives, a plan to develop pathways to increase Black representation in the sport, youth and grassroots community initiatives, a pledge to diversify the league's supplier base, and partnerships with two organizations focused on mentoring and uplifting members of the Black community.

MLS also announced that it would donate $1 million to Black Players For Change -- an advocacy group for the league's Black players -- to aid the growth of the organization.

"Major League Soccer is committed to utilizing our wide-ranging platforms to create meaningful programs to address racism and social injustice in society and in the sport of soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said.

"Importantly, alongside key stakeholders, including MLS owners, Black Players For Change, former players, Black members of our technical staff and other employees, we have created a series of initiatives to close the representation gap across soccer in the U.S. and Canada."

The announcement comes as protests demanding social justice have swept the country since the killing of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25.

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Hislop: We'll continue to dribble, but we won't shut up

Shaka Hislop offers a passionate statement on the drive for change in his ESPN+ series, "Show Racism the Red Card."

Since then, MLS hasn't been immune from its own race-related controversies. Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen was found to have made racist comments to team employees and has since announced he will sell the team. Fans of FC Dallas booed players for taking a knee back on Aug. 12. And when then-Dallas defender Reggie Cannon called the response "disgusting," he received death threats. Cannon later stated that the club asked him to apologise to fans for his remarks, which he said he refused to do.

"I think that this announcement, and the work that we've been doing for months now, is very telling, and I'm happy that we're moving in this direction," MLS vice president of player engagement Jamil Northcutt, Ph.D., one of the league's few Black executives, said of the announced plans. "And I'm hopeful, and obviously cautiously optimistic, that we will continue down this path.

"This is just the beginning. We've got a lot of work to do, and we've been doing a lot of work to get to this point. But we've shown great faith, and our commissioner has been very active and involved and trying to make a difference. I'm pleased with that, but I'm also committed as well to make sure that we continue, and it's not just a flash in the pan."