English Premier League (EPL) soccer players have been kneeling in droves since 2020, when support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) became fashionable. While kneeling before matches has become far less common, the Arsenal Gunners have revamped their support of activist causes with the release of their new away kit.
Gathering inspiration from Aston Mack, Arsenal unveiled an all-black kit that was an ode to the social justice group Orlando Freedom Fighters, which Mack founded in 2020 to protest alongside BLM.
🗓 Two years ago a photo of Aston Mack went viral. This is his story.— Arsenal (@Arsenal) July 17, 2022
From Baltimore to Orlando and beyond, we’re sharing the stories of Gooners from across the USA 📖
❤️ Next up: Aston Mack, activist and Orlando Gooner. pic.twitter.com/pv0GSWicCL
In a video of a protest in 2020 that went viral, Mack was at a protest in Orlando, FL wearing a yellow Gunners jersey, prompting Arsenal to reach out and invited Mack to share his story.
Last week on Twitter, we noticed someone at an Orlando #BlackLivesMatter demonstration wearing an @Aubameyang7 @Arsenal Jersey. His name is Aston Mack. This is his story... 🔈🔈🔈VOLUME UP🔈🔈🔈 pic.twitter.com/fkBNQvAF1e— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) June 12, 2020
“I’m just as a little guy out here, and Arsenal’s a $14 billion value club, and they take the time out of their day to have the chief executive reach out to me,” Mack said at the time. “It shows to me that I was correct, that my club’s values are the ones that I think that they are. Arsenal’s always preached about victory through harmony ...”
Two years later, Arsenal’s kits will reflect the woke values he stands for.
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"For Arsenal to come in and say: 'Hey this is important, we will shine a light on this, we won't shy away from these issues, this is valuable, this is what we stand for,' it is really important,” Mack said. “It really gets a lot of people galvanized and energized. It gives us hope."
While it is important to do our best to not be racist, what sports leagues and activists often get wrong is thinking that supporting organizations like the Orlando Freedom Fighters and BLM will help promote equality, or that it will change anything for the better.
In fact, the opposite is true. The goal of these organization’s social justice causes is to make white people in the present pay for the mistakes of white people in the past. That is not justice, that is an endless cycle of guilt and shaming designed to direct racism towards white people which will do far more harm than good.
But hey, at least Arsenal will probably feel good about themselves for a little bit.