A group of Seattle sports professionals is hoping to go beyond game-day displays in the fight for social justice and make a more local impact. They're calling themselves the Athletic Justice Collective, or AJC.
This year, sports teams have had to contend not only with a pandemic that's interrupted play, but also with a nationwide reckoning on race, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Even before protests rocked the country, several of Seattle's teams and athletes made an effort to speak out on social justice issues. The Seahawks are wearing helmets this season featuring the names of victims of police brutality. In September, the Sounders wore pregame shirts reading "Justice for Manny Ellis," referring to the Black man who was killed while in Tacoma police custody in March. And Storm players frequently use their platforms to promote political causes.
The AJC is hoping to capitalize on this momentum and further mobilize Seattle's sports community.
"Instead of it just being coming together for solidarity, we want to come together and now take action," said Joshua Ford, a goalkeeper coach for the Sounders Academy and Tacoma Defiance.
Ford, along with Sounders' head strength and conditioning coach Sean Muldoon, has been helping to organize the effort behind the AJC. They say it's too early to reveal who exactly is involved. But they say they're seeing interest across Seattle's teams.
Ford and Muldoon spoke about their efforts with KNKX Morning Edition Host Kirsten Kendrick. Listen to their conversation above, or read the highlights below.
Ford, on a moment that struck him this summer: "I think for me, one of the biggest moments that kind of struck me was when the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play, which obviously the NBA joined in. But I think the most important part and most impactful thing was seeing the WNBA do that and say we're not going to play. It's maybe thinking, what are those other smaller market organizations going to do, such as the MLS, such as maybe the NHL, when everyone was trying to get back in with playing."
Muldoon, on the AJC's work so far: "It's really about taking action, right? So part of that is education and information – just continuing to educate myself, have other members continue to educate themselves. And then part of it is, is helping the community. We've had a number of initiatives around food and cold weather. And then there's also the Manny Ellis case specifically (which) has evolved since our conversations have happened. There's now the Manny Ellis Washington Anti-Discrimination Act that needs support. They need to gather 300,000 signatures by the end of the year to put it up for legislation. So can our group support that? Can we help gather signatures? Can we amplify the message of specifically around that legislation (and) around what's happening with this case?"
Muldoon, on what's surprised him: "The most surprising: What a hunger there is for community here and for people who work in sports to act and be about something bigger than themselves. The response is like – I wouldn't say we're at 100 percent – but when people are asked about it, we're in the 90s, for sure, of people wanting to opt in and be a part of it, and it's genuine and (they're) showing up. So I think for me, it's just a surprise of how many other people are having the conversations that Joshua and I are having, how many people want to be a part of something and take care of their community."