Right now, I would love nothing better than to be writing another one of my post-game analysis pieces, dissecting the latest Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC match.
Maybe even sharing yet another of Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s Ed Thompson’s fantastic photo galleries capturing the action at Highmark Stadium.
If COVID-19 didn’t shut things down, the Riverhounds would have hosted Hartford Athletic on Friday night.
On Saturday, we were supposed to be celebrating the 5th Anniversary of a momentous soccer match that took place five years ago. It was such a remarkable match that I decided to write a book, and center the narrative around the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 6-5 come-from-behind win against its rivals Harrisburg City Islanders.
However, for much of the day, despite my best efforts to start to promote the book and spend time looking back at the amazing game that took place, I was pretty distracted by seeing our country unravel and it really hit home when protests surfaced in Pittsburgh.
Protests and demonstrations started to break out in most major metropolitan areas and cities during the week. It was just a matter of time when Pittsburgh would be next. Sure enough, watching local news developments, people started gathering in Downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday morning.
In particular, I started to pay close attention to my friend Ed Thompson, as he said he was headed downtown to cover the protests.
— Ed Thompson (@ThompsonFoto12) May 30, 2020
I had some errands to run in the afternoon, and one of those was to stop by the house where my two adult sons live. Earlier in the day, I called both to see how they were doing, and been holding up in light of the events in the previous few days.
As a father who raised two bi-racial sons, this was not a new conversation. We’ve had our own experiences as a family in dealing with racial tension and discrimination — and had many talks over the years about these topics.
On Saturday, the tone of the conversation was different.
It felt more dire.
It’s always been my stance and I feel that it’s most important for me, as a white father of two young men who identify themselves as black, that they express themselves and speak up about what is not right.
My oldest, J.J., was pretty shaken. We talked for a while — and while he needed to get to work that afternoon — he was working on writing some lyrics for a new song he was making in his studio about the events that transpired the previous few days. He spoke passionately about how upset and tired having to make sense of another killing of a black man at the hands (and knee) of the police.
“Nothing has changed. Something needs to happen. I can understand why people are protesting, and why people are mad,” he said.
While my son was angry about the way George Floyd was killed by four Minneapolis police officers. He was also equally disgusted, and concerned about people turning to violence.
Together, we listened and watched one of the more eloquent and impassioned pleads for justice from Atlanta activist and musician, Killer Mike. We agreed that Killer Mike was making a lot of sense.
'I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I'm tired of seeing Black men die… But we have to be better than this moment. We have to be better than burning down our own homes.' — @KillerMike shared this message in response to the George Floyd uprisings pic.twitter.com/mt4gv1qDYP
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 1, 2020
My younger son, Jason, told me earlier in the day that he would not be home. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
After stopping by their house, as I jumped into the car to head back to take care of a few more errands. When I tuned into KDKA Radio, I started to hear the latest news developments, and my heart sank when I learned that peaceful protests had taken a turn for the worse Downtown.
That’s when it hit me — all I could think about was — where was Jason?
Since it was a Saturday, I knew he wasn’t working, but I suddenly had this moment of panic.
Was he Downtown? Did he join the protests?
I tried calling him.
Then I sent a text, saying ‘Please tell me you’re nowhere near Downtown — right?
He immediately responded: “I wasn’t.”
He sent me another text later in the night:
‘No Peace. No Justice.”
Again, my mind shifted back to what was going on Downtown. Ed was there, right in the middle of it.
ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY
STAY OUT OF PITTSBURGH!!! I’ve been punched twice and attacked for my cameras once. It’s UGLY here!! pic.twitter.com/tIshmeRCwJ
— Ed Thompson (@ThompsonFoto12) May 31, 2020
In the ensuing days, Ed continued to follow additional protests in Greensburg and in East Liberty that were almost entirely peaceful.
Now, I don’t know if athletes speaking out always is going to incite any real change, but on Monday, when Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Robbie Mertz, a young white man who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, and is around the same age as my two sons, also shared his feelings.
In a clear sign of the current times, it was rather sobering and revealing.
Instead of talking soccer, providing a post-game interview for me on Friday or some banter from practice on Monday, Mertz outlined his opinion of these unprecedented current events and shared his support for all of his black friends.
My opinion, and my support to all of my black friends: pic.twitter.com/yFXgkOQ93G
— Robbie Mertz (@robbiemertz14) June 1, 2020
Riverhounds assistant coach Dan Visser also expressed his thoughts on Monday too.
Though I don’t have anything particularly new to add to the conversation about racial inequality in America, I felt convicted to share some thoughts after reading a tweet from one of our players earlier today: pic.twitter.com/79SPS740bz
— Dan Visser (@visserdan) June 2, 2020
In addition. one of the newest Riverhounds, Tony Walls II, had this to share on Tuesday.
For people in these positions!! We’re hear for you, especially cause you’re there for us. If you’re standing up to your own family you’ll stand up to anyone ✊🏽✊🏾✊🏾 stay strong. Sad some people are so closed minded and flat out hateful. https://t.co/vZiBbSbRhT
— Tony Walls II (@TWalls20) June 2, 2020
This is heartbreaking to see families are being torn apart — today — in 2020 — because of racism.
It stinks there’s so much uncertainty, and soccer seems like such a distant thing right now.
It’s great to see members of the Pittsburgh soccer community embrace inclusion over the years, demand justice and get behind statements made by Mertz and Visser.
Bravo @robbiemertz14 .
This sincerity and introspection is what is needed from white athletes at this time.
To be a willing partner to their POC teammates in the fight for racial equality. https://t.co/NvkrdPPcbe
— Mark Asher Goodman (@soccer_rabbi) June 1, 2020
— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) June 2, 2020
It’s my hope that our country can come together and voices of those who are angry and upset are not being ignored. Hopefully our leaders and communities can unite to find solutions and come up with positive reforms to law enforcement.
And, it’s my hope that my own family and my loved ones can stay strong, and together, get through this difficult time.