DALLAS, Texas (CNN) — FC Dallas and Major League Soccer (MLS) have strongly condemned the racist comments and threats made against US soccer star Reggie Cannon after the Dallas player criticized some fans for booing players who took a knee.
Players from both FC Dallas and Nashville SC, and match referees, knelt during the US national anthem before Wednesday’s match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, to protest against racial injustice and support the Black Lives Movement.
But their peaceful protest was met with booing and, afterwards, Cannon, 22, told reporters the fan reaction was “absolutely disgusting.”
“We want to be clear: We love and support Reggie Cannon,” FC Dallas chairman and chief executive officer Clark Hunt and president Dan Hunt said in a joint statement on Thursday.
“The racist comments and death threats he has received are repulsive and unacceptable.
“There is no place in our sport, or in our country for that matter, for the kind of horrific vitriol Reggie had to endure today. Hateful or violent threats are never warranted — especially when they are directed toward a member of our FC Dallas family.”
First match since March
Played before almost 3,000 fans, the match between Dallas and Nashville had been the first MLS match for both teams — and the first match before fans — since the league was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The fan reaction also drew sharp criticism from MLS commissioner Don Garber who, in an MLS statement on Thursday, called some of the comments made on social media following the match “appalling.”
“As we have stated consistently over many years, Major League Soccer supports players and staff who protest peacefully on behalf of equality and social justice,” the league said.
“We want to be very clear that MLS will not tolerate any abuse or threats to any individual player or team who decides to exercise their right to peaceful protest during the playing of the national anthem or any other pre-game ceremony.”
Cannon said he did not understand the reaction by a small section of the crowd.
“You got fans booing you for people taking a stand for what they believe in,” Cannon said after a 1-0 defeat to Nashville.
“Millions of other people support this cause and we discussed with every other team and the league what we’re going to do and we’ve got fans booing us in our own stadium. How disgraceful is that? Honestly, for lack of a better word, it p****d me off.
“You can’t even have support from your own fans in your own stadium. It’s baffling to me.
“I even knew when we decided to kneel, I knew it was going to happen. That should tell you something, I knew we were going to have some negative pushback from having a unified response over what’s going on. That’s the problem, that’s a problem.”