FC Dallas hosted Nashville SC last Wednesday in the official restart of the MLS 2020 regular season. The game, which Nashville won 1-0, was secondary to what happened in pre-game ceremonies when some fans booed as players from both teams and the officials kneeled during the national anthem. Players voiced their objections to the fan behavior following the game, and one FC Dallas player was the subject of racist comments and death threats on social media.
The MLS and FC Dallas responded by condemning the actions and went into overdrive in preparation for the second meeting in a week between the two teams, which happened late on Sunday night. The MLS and teams came to a mutual agreement and solution that allowed the players to remain inside the locker room for the national anthem.
MLS players kneel during national anthem and some fans boo
When the MLS is Back Tournament started in late July in Orlando absent any fans, none of the games included the national anthem, and all players and match officials kneeled for a moment of silence meant to call for change. In the first regular-season matchup between FC Dallas and Nashville SC in Texas, MLS officials and the teams had a different plan in place. It wasn’t well received.
When the MLS players and match officials kneeled during the national anthem in the first matchup on Wednesday, some fans booed while others began chanting, “USA!”
FC Dallas defender and U.S. men’s national team member Reggie Cannon expressed his disgust for the behavior following the game.
“Ryan Hollingshead, the first thing he said to me after we got up from the knee he said ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m sorry for our fans because we had someone chanting ‘USA’ when they don’t understand what kneeling means. They don’t understand why we’re kneeling and can’t see the reason. They just think we’re the ignorant ones, and it’s incredibly frustrating. I’m sorry to have this tone, but you have to call it for what it is.
“I even knew when we decided to kneel; I knew it was going to happen. That should tell you something, that I knew we were going to have some negative pushback from having a unified response over what’s going on. That’s the problem. It hurts me. I love our fans. I love this club. And I want to see the support that the league has given us, that everyone has given us, from our fans.”
MLS and FC Dallas respond to racist remarks and death threats
After Cannon’s post-game comments, some fans took to social media to express their thoughts on the player and his remarks. Numerous angry fans resorted to using racist language while others went so far as to send death threats. The MLS and FC Dallas both reacted accordingly.
“We want to be clear: We love and support Reggie Cannon,” FC Dallas said in a statement. “The racist comments and death threats that he has received are repulsive and unacceptable.”
MLS players remain inside during national anthem
While the MLS was dealing with the national anthem fallout plus the threats directed at Cannon, the league was also feverishly preparing for a rematch of the two teams scheduled four days later back in Dallas, and trying to determine what kind of adjustments needed to be made in the pre-game ceremonies.
Prior to the game on Sunday, FC Dallas announced in a statement what the league and teams had decided.
“In consultation with our players and MLS, we have collectively decided to play the National Anthem before the players take the field for tonight’s match against Nashville SC,” FC Dallas said in a statement. “Prior to the start of the game, there will be a moment of silence for the players, coaches and all in attendance to promote racial equality.”
After a weather delay of more than three hours, the teams followed through on the plan, and there were no incidents. Whether or not players remain in the locker room for the national anthem in future games remains unclear.
The MLS is serving as the guinea pig in having its players kneel during the national anthem with fans in the stands. It will be interesting to see how the league, its teams, and the fans respond in the upcoming matches this week and it could be a barometer for what other leagues might expect in the future when fans return to the stands.