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USL and United Black Players to “Celebrate Freedom” to honor Juneteenth

By Staff, 06/14/24, 1:30PM EDT


Captains in USL Championship and USL League One will wear custom "Celebrate Freedom" armbands designed by Oakland-based artist Shido between June 15-20

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is celebrated annually on June 19. It is a national holiday observed to commemorate the day in 1865 when about 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the enslaved Black people in Texas were free, thanks to the Emancipation Proclamation, originally signed into law in 1863.  

Juneteenth has long been an important commemorative day for Black Americans, representing a day of reflection, education, celebration, and community building.  

But for many years, Juneteenth was not observed – or even known – by many across our nation.  

That changed following the social upheaval of the summer of 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. In 2021, Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday. Across our nation, people began observing Juneteenth and discussing its history, what it means today, and why it is important for all Americans to observe it. 

Sports has played an important role in the evolving conversation around Juneteenth. Many Black athletes across the sports world, including soccer players, continue to lift their voices to open important dialogue about race and sports’ role in bringing about social change.  

But even with the progress made over the past few years, there is still work to do to educate, inform, and inspire more change. 

This year, the USL will celebrate Juneteenth from June 15-20.  

In collaboration with the United Black Players, captains in USL Championship and USL League One will wear custom "Celebrate Freedom" armbands designed by Oakland, CA-based artist Shido, whose design is also emblazoned on custom t-shirts that UBP members will wear this week as arrival fits. 

Over the activation period, USL clubs will honor Juneteenth with themed match nights, custom kits, and storytelling across their digital and social channels. 

Select Club Activations 

June 15 

  • Central Valley Fuego FC | Juneteenth Theme Night, including stadium giveaway, limited t-shirts. 

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC | The Hounds will have a float in the city’s Grand Jubilee Juneteenth Parade, with select players riding along. 

June 16 

  • North Carolina FC | Juneteenth Theme Night, Juneteenth Game on June 16; cleat design collaboration w/local artist and Ezra Armstrong. 

June 19 

  • Birmingham Legion FC | Players will wear custom kits designed by Black-owned agency KitBoys Club. Proceeds from limited quantities for fans and game-worn jerseys auctioned off will go to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church. 

  • FC Tulsa | FC Tulsa players recently visited Greenwood Rising, a museum dedicated to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. A mini-documentary about the visit will be released ahead of the match on Juneteenth. 

  • Greenville Triumph | A special pregame performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem. 

June 20 

  • Forward Madison FC | Juneteenth celebration, including unveiling a custom Juneteenth flag in collaboration with the Featherstone Flamingos, the club's Black supporter group, and special performances by Black Star Drumline. 

June 22

  • Oakland Roots SC | A special performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by local artist Solauren at the match will be followed by a partnership activation at the Hayward Freedom Celebration.

Helpful Juneteenth Resources 

“The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth” | National Museum of African American History & Culture  

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute 

NAACP Juneteenth page 

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