Nashville’s 3-1 loss in Orlando on Wednesday night was strange, for a lot of reasons. While it was unusual to see the team concede three unanswered goals, even more surreal were the circumstances surrounding the match.
Around the country, players from all sports chose not to play tonight to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, opting instead to use their platform to educate themselves and others on the issues of systemic racism and police brutality that are are the forefront of our collective consciousness.
While rumblings of boycotts began to rise from Miami and Dallas, Nashville and Orlando kicked off as scheduled. The first MLS match on the schedule for tonight, there were efforts to delay the game in unison with the MLS Players Association, but ultimately the boycott didn’t happen.
On the field, Nashville started brightly, creating several chances, with Abu Danladi causing issues with his pace in his first start for the club. It was Dave Romney who opened the scoring, getting onto the end of a well-delivered Hany Mukhtar set piece to nod Nashville in front.
The lead was short-lived, however, with Chris Muller equalizing for Orlando after just five minutes after a driving run from João Moutinho down the left.
Nashville went into the break with questions of if the second half would even be played, as MLS players decided to postpone the other five matches around the league.
Orlando striker Daryl Dike took over the match in the second half, scoring a pair of goals to give the home side a 3-1 win.
On a night when sports seemed very small in the overall picture of current events, it was a disappointing night for Nashville on the field.
After the match, captain Dax McCarty and Jalil Anibaba, a board member of Black Players for Change, spoke to the media on their decision to play the match.
“I have no thoughts about the soccer game, McCarty began. “Soccer takes a backseat.”
The two players confirmed that Nashville and Orlando did not have enough time before the match to effectively communicate with each other and the rest of the league to boycott the match. “I wish we could have been a part of it.”
“I think it’s clear where we stand,” added Anibaba. “We did what we had to do, and we did our best to still show where we stand as a club while not having enough time to boycott the games.”
When asked what happens next, Anibaba replied, “At this point and time, it’s just a matter of the players being unified. We will continue to discuss what makes the most sense. Obviously, kneeling isn’t enough.”
Nashville is currently scheduled to host Inter Miami CF on Sunday evening at Nissan Stadium.
Gary Smith, Dax McCarty and Jalil Anibaba’s full comments can be watched below.