English Soccer Returns With Social Distancing — And a Push for Social Justice

When the English Premier League resumes Wednesday, players will wear "Black Lives Matter" on their jerseys instead of their names

A view of a sign at Villa Park stadium, a day ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, as the league resumes play after a 100-day pandemic-enforced shutdown at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
AP Photo/Rui Vieira

As English soccer fans settle down to watch Manchester City take on Arsenal on Wednesday in the English Premier League’s long-awaited return after coronavirus stopped play in March, it will be clear something has changed.

Not only will the stadiums be empty — broadcasters are allowing fans to turn on artificial crowd noise if they want — the names of stars such as Sergio Agüero and Alexandre Lacazette won’t appear on the back of their jerseys. Instead, all players’ shirts will say the same thing: “Black Lives Matter.”

It’s the result of a push by soccer stars to demonstrate their support for the global anti-racism movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

"We, the players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists," said a statement released by the league on Friday on behalf of players from all 20 teams. The league added that it would support any players who took a knee in protest before games.

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