In a departure from tradition, the post-game press conference after Thursday’s Cavalry FC-Atlético Ottawa match featured players from neither team.
After CPLers from all eight clubs came together prior to the Cavalry-Ottawa matcg to protest against racial discrimination, and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, FC Edmonton’s Tomi Ameobi and Connor James took questions from the media to provide an additional perspective on the emotions of the day.
The CPL players’ decision came in the wake of monumental decisions North American athletes — spearheaded by NBA players — to sit out their games on Wednesday.
“I know that there’s players here who have been affected by (racism) at one point or another during their lifetime,” Ameobi said. “I think it really hits home for a lot of players. Not even just for the black players here, but players of all different races, I think it really did hit home.”
The league’s players, coaches, and front office discussed the issues at length on Thursday morning, ultimately coming together for the actions they took at the afternoon’s match. James, for his part, insisted that something had to be done, and he was happy with the ultimate result.
“My initial reaction was, we as a league need to ensure that we’re doing something to meet the precedent that’s being set by the other leagues who have been acting, such as the NBA,” he said. “So I’m really happy that we as a league community really, between the players and the league, came to a conclusion and got to a good resolution.”
Of course, the Eddies didn’t have to play a football match after it all. Players from Cavalry and Atlético were quick to say that they’d had a lot on their minds before and during the game, which may have made it difficult focus solely on the sport.
“Things like this transcend sport. They transcend most of the things we do on a day-to-day basis, and so if this didn’t affect you one way or another, I’d have to question what really goes on in your head,” Ameobi said.
“For the players who played today, the Cavalry and Ottawa players, you’ve got to take your hat off to them for being able to dial themselves back in and manage to get through the game.”
At the end of the day, it’s important to all the players involved that this movement doesn’t stop here. James, as someone who isn’t a person of colour, gave his perspective on his role in supporting his fellow players and human beings, both now and in the long run.
“You have to show that you’re somebody who’s willing to understand what the whole movement is about, and willing to understand what you can do as an individual or as a member of a team to make things better,” he said. “I think support is really the most important principle there.”