Tackling Systemic Racism Through Soccer: A thoughtful and forward-thinking conversation with sports leaders from both the United States and Catalonia


To continue important conversations about using sports for social change, the U.S. Soccer Foundation participated in a virtual conversation hosted by the Delegation of Catalonia to the U.S. The online event focused on how sports can play a decisive role in replacing racism and prejudice with tolerance and inclusiveness.

The panel was moderated by Aurora Masip, Journalist and Catalan Blood and Tissue Bank Communications Director and former Government of Catalonia spokesperson. Masip was joined by panelists Isidre Sala, Delegate of the Government of Catalonia to the USA; Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO, U.S. Soccer Foundation; Xavier O’Callaghan, Managing Director, Americas, FC Barcelona; U.S. Soccer Foundation ambassadors and former U.S. National Team players Saskia Webber and Charlie Davies; and Carolina Ribalta, Director of Communications, AE Ramassa, African Youth Initiative Network.

Sala kicked off the virtual event with a passionate delivery about the need to share the same values of tolerance and equality. “Sports have a great opportunity to provide a positive message of tolerance and respect,” he said, adding that among sports, soccer is the most common. “Sport has the power to change the world. Real equality among all human beings – once and for all.”

During his opening remarks, Foster-Simeon said, “This is a sad time but also a hopeful time – a great awakening of these issues. Sport is a powerful vehicle for social change.” He also cited a Nelson Mandela quote, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little does…It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.” He added, “We believe that nothing is more powerful than youth sports to drive social change. I’m excited about this time and we all have an important role to play. Youth sports create a healthier and a more equitable world.”

The panel discussion touched on a variety of perspectives. O’Callaghan, for example, spoke about FC Barcelona’s approach to tackling inequities through their foundation and on the club level. O’Callaghan echoed Foster-Simeon in saying that sport is a powerful tool to integrate people. “Our Foundation in New York is in 16 schools – and we foster the integration of kids from different communities. We create bonds among kids and we can see the impact of our effort.”

Attendees then watched a video from Ricky Rubio, NBA player for the Phoenix Suns. “It’s time,” he said. “It’s been enough. Racism has been long enough in our life and it is time to speak up. Work as one and things will get better. It’s time.”

The conversation continued with the perspective another professional athlete as Masip introduced Saskia Webber, who experienced many instances of racism firsthand. “I never experienced racism among the players and coaches, but I did experience it from fans and others. We have to speak out. We have to let people know what we have gone through. Enough is enough. The way we change it is to talk about it.” She also added, “Don’t assume your children will figure it out. You have to have that open dialogue.”

Ribalta also stressed the importance of having these conversations with young people and creating an inclusive environment in sports. She spoke about the power of soccer and how her organization is on a mission to make it accessible to everyone. “In the field, everyone is equal,” she said. “Take advantage of youth innocence. The sport stresses equality. Younger kids understand that we are all equal.”

Masip then introduced a video from Aracelli Segarra, the first Catalan woman to climb Mt. Everest. “A mountain doesn’t judge, it doesn’t get easier or harder,” said Segarra as she spoke of her climb. “When you’re in trouble and see a hand coming up to help you, do you care about the color of that hand? Why can’t we do this in our everyday life? Mountains don’t judge. Mother Nature loves us all equally.”

Davies talked about the moment in 1994 when he developed a passion for the sport: “When I saw the power of unity, the passion – I knew it was for me!” He also agreed that racism is a global problem. “When we see racism, there needs to be proper sanctions, fees, fines – show your support and stand against racism,” he said. And most importantly, he encouraged everyone to speak up: “Educate, educate, speak out. If you hear it, see it, then stop it.”

To wrap up the discussion, Sala and Foster-Simeon talked about young people and their ability to drive positive social change.

Sala added, “We have to fight for equality. Young people have the power to change. Young people, if they get the right messages when they are young, they will probably act in the right way when they are old.”

“Sport is unique because it’s a place where people come together, to support a team, community, each other,” Foster-Simeon said. “Getting comfortable with saying uncomfortable things – that’s how things will change.”

To watch the event in full, visit this link.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Join the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the movement to improve lives through soccer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • adidas


    adidas, the Foundation’s Safe Places to Play – Mini-Pitch Partner, supports providing children in underserved communities with safe play spaces nationwide. adidas strives to be the globally leading and most popular sporting goods brand. Dedicated to innovation,  adidas embraces creativity and seeks to be socially responsible in all facets of its brand. For more information, please visit adidas.com.

  • CHA


    CHA Sports, the Foundation’s Supplier for Soccer Facility Design and Planning Services, provides community partners with expertise in soccer facility design. CHA Sport’s full service approach allows the company to build world-class projects without breaking budgets. For more information, please visit chacompanies.com

  • The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit SportsMatter.org.

  • Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal, the Foundation’s Official Supplier for goals, seating, boundary equipment, training equipment and coaching accessories, will be supporting a variety of Foundation programs and initiatives including: Soccer for Success, National Training and the Safe Places to Play program. Over thirty years ago, Kwik Goal was founded on the revolutionary concept of providing transportable goals for coaches at all age levels. Since that time, Kwik Goal has continued to focus on helping coaches and soccer programs create safe and dynamic learning environments by supplying high quality, safety tested soccer goals, field equipment and training equipment to the domestic and international market. For more information, please visit Kwikgoal.com.



    MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS WORKS is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by executing national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertaking various initiatives in underserved communities.

  • Musco


    As a proud corporate partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco is dedicated to helping the major charitable arm of American soccer create new opportunities through high-quality sports lighting. Their Total Light Control—TLC for LED™ technology is engineered as a system with lighting, structural, and electrical components designed to work together for streamlined installation and long-term reliability. TLC for LED delivers superior field lighting while eliminating glare and spill from impacting surrounding neighborhoods. And Musco’s long-term warranty covering parts and labor means U.S. Soccer Foundation partners don’t have to handle any maintenance on their system, or pay for it, for 25 years. Visit https://ussoccerfoundation.org/grants/ to learn more about the grant program and application process.

  • SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports, the preferred provider of shin guards to the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, is a family-owned and operated business specializing in sports equipment, uniforms and apparel. SCORE is an industry leader and has been involved in the sports community for over 40 years. SCORE outfits athletes with high-quality uniforms that SCORE develops, designs and manufactures in the U.S. SCORE takes pride in working with various non-profit groups and causes to give back to athletes who may need some extra support to play the game they love. SCORE is environmentally cautious with the materials it uses for its products and does its part in minimizing our environmental footprint. SCORE proudly offers a wide variety of products to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all your soccer needs. For more information, please visit scoresports.com.

  • Soccer.com


    Soccer.com, the Foundation’s National Partner for Soccer Equipment and Uniforms, was founded in 1984 to provide high quality soccer gear at reasonable prices through its nationally circulated catalog. Soccer.com embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit soccer.com.




  • Target


    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

  • TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide, the Foundation’s National Partner for Visual Branding (Signage, Event Décor, Pageantry, Sponsorship Activation), Perimeter Field Board Systems, Creative Services and Event Operations is proud to support a variety of initiatives and programs throughout the United States. Headquartered in the U.S., TGI is an internationally recognized sports marketing company delivering high profile Visual Branding, Live Event Management, LED, and cutting edge Digital Sports Applications to enrich the experience at major events and deliver commercial impact for sponsors and partners. The company has a 20-year history in providing its various solutions for many top-tier domestic and international events, organizations, teams and companies, with proven success and turn-key solutions across 1000+ events, 160+ cities and 50+ countries globally.

    For more information on our services, please visit https://www.worldwidetgi.com or contact Mike Squire at msquire@worldwidetgi.com / Phone: 312-371-5852.

  • World Soccer Shop

    World Soccer Shop

    Launched in 2001, World Soccer Shop is an online soccer retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama. It carries one of the world’s widest selections of officially-licensed products from the sport’s top brands and teams. World Soccer Shop is passionate about soccer and endeavors to spread the beautiful game around the world, especially to those in areas of need. For more information, please visit www.worldsoccershop.com.


Tweet or post on Facebook and show the world
that you believe in the power of soccer.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter