Former Dynamo midfielder Warren Creavalle took to the field at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at the start of the MLS is Back Tournament flanked by more than 170 members and allies of Black Players for Change (BPFC), an organization that was formed to give Black players in MLS a voice in making systemic changes through their work on and off the pitch.
“We are living in unprecedented times, it has been a really unique challenge. I don’t know anybody who is prepared for this, no one can write a handbook on how to prepare for this,” Creavalle, a current midfielder for the Philadelphia Union, said from his hotel in Orlando. “I think everyone has been caught off guard, especially by COVID. As far, as the parallel pandemic of systemic racism that is something that has been going on for a long time.”
BPFC addressed this issue at the start of the tournament as they stood in unison for eight minutes and 46 seconds as part of a pre-match demonstration for the first game . The path to this demonstration began on social media as a group of MLS players reflected on the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and the systemic racism they have faced or witnessed in the United States.
“C.J. Sapong sent a tweet that allowed me to sit back and realize how we got here. It started with a group chat on Instagram with just frustrated brothers in the league. Just airing out to each other, a sounding board,” Creavalle said. “We have really taken this time to control our narrative and the league has provided different platforms to get our message across. Fast forward a bit, that came in the form of me being able to create some on-field wear for the entire league. It has been a really cool process, just for what it stands for, who it’s for and what it says. This is really important for me.
For Creavalle the pandemic has given Americans an opportunity to focus on the systemic racism African Americans have faced in this country due to the limited distractions. With professional sports on pause for more than three months and additional recreational pastimes limited by COVID-19 – Creavalle is aiming to build a foundation for a movement that goes beyond the moment.
The 11-year MLS veteran was not deterred by the pause in play and used his platform as a designer to design a Black Lives Matter armband. This armband will be worn by teams throughout the MLS is Back Tournament and is the cornerstone of Creavalle’s off the field contributions during the pandemic.
“If you would have asked me what I would have worked design-wise when quarantine started, I don’t think I could have predicted this. I’m open to whatever comes from this. It is funny how life works,” Creavalle said. “I plan to continue to express myself and use the platform I’ve been afforded for positive messaging and meaningful messaging.”
Creavalle’s platform includes a clothing line named Creavalle, which is managed by the Brooklyn native along with his partners. Creavalle began that brand as a midfielder for the Dynamo in 2014. He has grown the brand to include an afterschool program in Chester, Pennsylvania that allows students to express themselves by designing soccer jerseys.
The clothing brand has brought balance to Creavalle’s day-to-day as a professional soccer player. He curates each piece through his perspective and for the armband, he had to think beyond his experiences and create a design that would appeal to a much larger group – a task Creavalle relished.
“I had a starting point that I always wanted to be at. It was an exercise in where – Crevalle is always seen through the lens of myself, you know. It is very much what I am looking at, I am expressing myself for myself. If that resonates with you, then it resonates with you, if not, it doesn’t,” he said. “Through this, I am speaking for more than myself. I am speaking on behalf of an entire group, I am speaking on behalf of a larger platform, for whoever wants to wear this and is inclusive. For allies as well, it was a cool exercise in speaking from a different perspective.”