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About Players Coalition

Players Coalition exists to end social injustices and racial inequality so future generations have opportunity to thrive without barriers.

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California,

United States

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Latest Players Coalition News

Bakersfield native Amarikwa helps promote racial equity in American soccer

Sep 21, 2021

By HENRY GREENSTEINhgreenstein@bakersfield.com 1 of 2 Bakersfield native Quincy Amarikwa recently joined Oakland Roots SC, continuing his work on the field as he's engaged in activism with Black Players for Change off the field. Courtesy of Sirena Amarikwa Amarikwa (bottom left) attended the opening of a mini-pitch in Harlem in June with members of Black Players for Change and Black Women's Player Collective. As part of a partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco Lighting and others, BPC is slated to help unveil a similar pitch in Fresno in December. Courtesy of Sirena Amarikwa When Rob Kaler, chief operating officer of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, first learned he was going to work alongside Quincy Amarikwa, co-founder of Black Players for Change, Kaler had a preconception of the “constantly talking, hilarious” striker he had admired from afar at D.C. United games. The Washington Post once wrote that Amarikwa had “the hardest-working mouth in MLS.” An unrepentant trash-talker whose creed is “Mental Strength League” and who practically made a new sport out of annoying Zlatan Ibrahimovic , Amarikwa recorded 26 goals and 20 assists across 223 games with six MLS teams, impressing teammates along the way with his pure strength and resultant ability to shrug off much larger defenders . In short, he's carved out a niche all his own in a 13-year career in American professional soccer. “When I heard he was one of the leaders of this effort,” Kaler said, “I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun.’” When Kaler actually started collaborating with Amarikwa, what he found was a deep thinker with a profound commitment to “radical transparency” in his leadership of a group committed to racial equity in soccer. “I think they truly believe and are committed to it being part of their legacy as players, and something that will continue on after their careers are ended,” Kaler said. A Bakersfield native who starred at Liberty High School and with the Bakersfield Brigade, Amarikwa was a free agent after 11 MLS seasons when he helped found Black Players for Change in the summer of 2020. BPC announced its presence at the kickoff game of the MLS Is Back tournament in July 2020, when Black players gathered with their fists raised during a demonstration that lasted eight minutes and 46 seconds, in reference to the killing of George Floyd. The organization comprises MLS players and personnel “working to bridge the racial equality gap that exists in society,” according to its  website . Amarikwa, who currently serves as director of strategic partnerships alongside executive director Justin Morrow, said he learned from his parents that having a platform means you have to speak up about unfair circumstances. “My activism is getting people to see how we’re all connected,” Amarikwa said, “whether we like it or not.” Amarikwa emphasized that the goal isn’t necessarily to make things easier for Black players, but simply to “make sure that glass ceiling doesn’t exist.” Indeed, some of BPC’s partnerships focus on removing barriers to entry for Black youth. The project that brought Amarikwa and Kaler together was a “mini-pitch” initiative, a continuation of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s goal to build 1,000 small playing surfaces around the country by 2026. Together with the Black Women’s Player Collective, Adidas and Musco Lighting, BPC and the foundation planned 12 mini-pitches across the country in areas significant to founders of BPC and BWPC. Kaler said that for Amarikwa’s location, the foundation “couldn’t get any traction” with Bakersfield itself, but the organizations hope to unveil a mini-pitch in Fresno in December as part of a plan to have 11 open by the end of 2021. Kaler said the groups will reconvene soon to discuss next steps, and that he hopes players from BPC and BWPC will be even more involved going forward. “You can’t get bogged down with 'Can we solve all of the social and racial issues in the country? '” said Eduardo Zamarripa, soccer market manager at Musco Lighting. “The answer is, realistically, no, but can we contribute something that is meaningful to one community where you’re impacting one person, 10 people, 20 people? And that’s really been the motivation behind it.” Kaler added that “you get in ruts where you only see it from your organization’s vantage point, and (BPC members) bring a fresh, different vantage point that adds to the diversity of what we’re trying to do.” Indeed, what Amarikwa said he is proudest of so far about BPC is that the organization’s 170-plus members bring wide-ranging perspectives to discussions of race. “We don’t all have a monolithic way of looking at things,” he said. “We value the diversity of thought but that also means sometimes your thoughts don’t make it through. … It’s competitive just like we want it to be competitive on the soccer field.” The organization broadened its reach further by partnering with the Players Coalition, a group with similar interests in social justice founded by NFL players in 2017. With the nonprofits working in concert, Morrow joined in a Players Coalition initiative to end juvenile life without parole in his home state of Ohio, one of many joint efforts. “Under the leadership of Quincy and others, Black Players for Change has been a critical voice for change in soccer,” Players Coalition co-founder Anquan Boldin wrote in an email to The Californian, “and we value our partnership and all the work they are doing within the MLS community.” It’s worth noting that as Amarikwa pursues these efforts he’s still playing professional soccer. He’s back in California after joining Oakland Roots SC of the United Soccer League in August. “I guess I didn’t really realize how many people have been following my career for as long as they have been,” he said, “and the feedback’s been amazing. The experience has been really positive.” It’s another opportunity for Amarikwa to get involved with a local community and engage in the activism that has shaped his recent career: “The only real agenda or goal I have is to maximize positive experience for everybody.” Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein. Deaths: 1,521 Number of Negative Tests: 478,137 Number of Pending Tests*: 426

Players Coalition Investments

1 Investments

Players Coalition has made 1 investments. Their latest investment was in Digital Pioneers Academy as part of their Grant on November 11, 2019.

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Players Coalition Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

11/5/2019

Grant

Digital Pioneers Academy

$0.06M

Yes

1

Date

11/5/2019

Round

Grant

Company

Digital Pioneers Academy

Amount

$0.06M

New?

Yes

Co-Investors

Sources

1

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