Home Sports #SayTheirNames: Tony Robinson gets spotlight in MLS match

#SayTheirNames: Tony Robinson gets spotlight in MLS match

ESPN video screen capture

On the second day of Major League Soccer’s MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, Madison’s own Tony Robinson was on the field … at least in spirit.

For their group stage match against NYCFC, all of the Philadelphia Union players replaced their own names on their jerseys with the names of Black people killed by police. Midfielder José Martinez, in his first season with the Union, wore the name “Robinson.” Across the bottom of the jersey was a decal with the handwritten words, “Todos somos iguales” — “We are all equal.”

Martinez, 25, also got a call-up to the Venezuala national team earlier this year.

Tony Robinson was 19 and unarmed when he was shot and killed by Madison police officer Matthew Kenny in March 2015. The wound left by his death has been reopened in recent weeks during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Kenny was not charged and is still on patrol as a member of the MPD.

“Those are Black people that were killed from police brutality and from what I’ve gathered the non-Black players on the team, mainly the white players, put names on the backs of their jerseys of people that they’ve learned about through this process within the team,” ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman said during the national broadcast of the match. “This is what you’re talking about. You are educating everyone in and around you. This is what you and I have talked about in how we can change. You listen, you hear what they are talking about and that’s how you create incremental change.”

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union.

Other names on the backs of Unions players’ jerseys included Floyd, McDonald, Rice, Taylor and more. According to a tweet from the team, captain Alejandro Bedoya intends to wear a special armband listing 30 names of Black people killed by police for the duration of the tournament. Tony Robinson was one of those names.

Today’s demonstration of solidarity follows a silent protest that took place on the field Wednesday night before the first game of the tournament, which marks the return of American soccer that had its season interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Players from around the league stood on the field and performed a silent demonstration before the opening match between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF. Players for Orlando and Miami closer to midfield took a knee, while other Black players around the perimeter of the field, visiting from a number of MLS clubs, raised their fists in the air for a silent demonstration that lasted for more than five minutes.

The demonstration was the brainchild of an organization within the league called Black Players for Change. In addition to the raised fists and bent knees, players wore face masks that read “Black Lives Matter” and wore shirts that read “Silence is Violence.”



Martinez earned a yellow card in the 39th minute of Philadelphia’s 1-0 win over NYCFC.