Fire's C.J. Sapong: MLS must tackle diversity issues in front offices

Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong said that MLS and its teams must do better to address what he called a "systemic" lack of diversity in the front offices around the league.

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Speaking with ESPN's Taylor Twellman, Sapong said that black players in the league often feel a disconnect with the leadership of their clubs.

"When you look at the experiences that black players have had in this league, especially when you have African players or darker South American and Latin players, there's always been this kind of disconnect. I mean I've seen it happen in teams," Sapong said.

According to the league, MLS counts with 722 players from 73 countries, including 44 from Africa and 126 from South America.

Sapong was speaking with ESPN in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer on May 25 in Minneapolis. Floyd's death has sparked protests and rallies against racism, inequity, and social injustice around the world.

"Until we can implement some type of strategy that everybody in the soccer world, in the sports world, in society, holds every other accountable ... then I think we'll see change pretty fast," added Sapong.

"We get programmed by the outside and the people we are around everyday, and because maybe that was just the norm, that might have led leadership to not really look at [diversity] as a serious issue, when now everybody realizes that it is a serious issue," he said.

"It's up to ... people that are analyzing the game and allowing players to have a platform to hold these higher-ups accountable."

In a statement following Floyd's death, MLS said it was "deeply saddened and horrified" and "we stand united with the black community throughout our country and share in the pain, anger and frustration."

"We are committed to use our voices and the platform of our League, our Clubs and our players to continue to champion equality and social justice," the statement added.

Also speaking with Twellman, Columbus Crew player Derrick Etienne said he felt scared for his life after being pulled over by police on two separate occasions on Monday while driving. The incidents occurred within three minutes of each other, with the second stop due to the protests in downtown Columbus.

Etienne had said that both times he was told that "you looked like you have warrants."

"What does a person with warrants look like? What does a person with warrants exactly look like?" Etienne said.

"The rage that went me through was huge because I went from a moment from where I'm getting pulled over, I see what's happening around the world, and now your life is at risk."

U.S. women's national team star and North Carolina Courage player Jessica McDonald said she is treated differently by officials on the pitch compared to her white teammates.

"It's sad that we have to carry ourselves in a different kind of way and act a different kind of way because if I get an attitude with the ref, he's quicker to throw up a card at me than one of my white teammates who would throw the same type of attitude towards him, it's more of a warning," McDonald said.