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Detroit City FC players pitch social justice message in wake of match postponement

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

Detroit City FC players made a statement collectively and individually Saturday, explaining their decision not to play a scheduled match against the New York Cosmos after last Sunday's police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

In a video posted on Twitter, 16 team members marched out of the players’ tunnel at Keyworth Stadium before congregating side-by-side at the center circle on the field where six gave impassioned speeches. All wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts.

DCFC captain Stephen Carroll said proceeds from the sale of the BLM shirts will be donated to local charities. Their addresses not only touched on this week’s tumultuous events in Kenosha, but offered insight to the players themselves.

Midfielder Michael Kafari is Black and grew up in Boise, Idaho, where he said he didn’t face racism.

“I was actually fortunate enough to have the opportunity to dream and to make something of myself,” said Kafari, who was born in Ghana. “However, coming to Detroit, this is not the case. My fellow African American people don’t have opportunities like I did.

“They are forced to turn to crime or other means just to make a living and to survive, and that is wrong. I have committed as well as a team … to change that.”

Forward Travis Bowen, who grew up in Los Angeles, described traveling 60 miles round-trip by train just to have a safe place to go to school.

“I say that because nothing I’ve been giving in this life has been free,” Bowen said. “I’m tired of my mother calling me to see if I’m safe, not solely because I am her son, but because I’m a Black son in America.

“I’ve never robbed, killed or cheated anyone to get what I have in life. For that reason, as a grown man, I should never feel scared and nervous when a police officer is behind me. That is not right.”

DCFC’s decision not to play prompted other teams in the third-tier National Independent Soccer Association to postpone their matches Saturday. Le Rouge’s opponent, the Cosmos, released a statement in support of the move.

loconnor@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @larryo1961