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After protests, Sounders plan to play on Sunday

Stefan Frei suggests the goal of amplifying calls for racial justice are far from over.

SOCCER: JUL 27 MLS - Seattle Sounders FC v Los Angeles Football Club Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the Jacob Blake protests casting a cloud over sports across the country, all but one of the six MLS games scheduled to play on Wednesday were called off. Included in the cancellations was the Seattle Sounders matchup against the LA Galaxy.

While that game hasn’t been rescheduled, the season is set to resume for the Sounders on Sunday with their first home match since the season was postponed back in March. Given the ongoing debate about the role of sports during a time of social unrest, it was natural to wonder if the postponement would continue through the weekend.

According to Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the plan is to play the game on Sunday, and also focus on ways to move the conversation on racial justice forward.

“That’s big thing, it’s nice to see some debate coming out of this,” Frei told SportsRadio 950 KJR’s Dave “Softy” Mahler. “I know our Black Players Coalition is talking with teams and league involved on how we can move forward productively this weekend; have games but also have a serious call for positive change in the right direction.

“In the end it was a stressful day, but I’m proud of all of the people that took a stand.”

Frei also had a message for those upset with the decision not to play. “This is about basic, human rights,” Frei said. “I apologize if you want entertainment in soccer, but there’s big things going on in the world.”

For Sounders’ midfielder Cristian Roldan, the decision not to play was because the team wanted to help create awareness on the issues of racial and social justice. As that debate continues, he said is also looking forward to returning to the field this Sunday.

“We’re excited to play LAFC,” Roldan told reporters on Friday. “Obviously a tough opponent and a difficult task. It’s important for us to have a good game against them. We’re at home, we haven’t played at CenturyLink field in awhile and we have to take care of business.”

It’s unclear how the unfolding situation in Salt Lake, where MLS has opened an investigation into Real Salt Lake owner Del Loy Hansen, will factor into the weekend’s slate of game. Hansen went on the radio Thursday morning complaining of how the cancelled games would impact him personally and financially, and late in the afternoon was the subject of an Athletic story that detailed alleged racist remarks he made to players, staff and employees. The MLSPA called for his suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.

MLS announced that Hansen was taking a leave of absence from the day-to-day operations of the team as even more stories about alleged racist behavior at a 2019 corporate event, where Hansen is alleged to have mocked black female employees surfaced. A source who was present at the event confirmed the details of Hansen’s behavior to Sounder at Heart. Hansen’s decision to step away from his role with Real Salt Lake appears to have satisfied the players — at least temporarily — as the matchup between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact went on as scheduled Friday evening, with Toronto winning 1-0. Jozy Altidore chose to sit out that match for “personal reasons” and Impact players said it was their preference to sit it out entirely.

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