Featured image of football players/ JWS

On the latest episode of Snacks, Crystal Dunn stopped by to discuss her personal journey in soccer and what the NWSL can be doing to show up for Black athletes.

“It seems like last year, you started to come into who you were a little bit more,” co-host Lynn Williams said first. “(You) were OK to finally say, ‘No, I need to be seen more. I am one of the best players in the world, if not the best player in the world, and it’s time for people to start recognizing that and stop putting me in this box.'”

Dunn agreed that, over time, she’s come to recognize the importance of representing Black women in a sport that can often feel isolating for them.

“When I first got on the national team, one, there weren’t many people that looked like me, so I didn’t really know how to exist in a space that I already felt like wasn’t built for me,” Dunn said. “I just think over the last couple of years, seeing more of us, seeing more women of color in this sport has really allowed me to feel like I can be seen because there’s more of us.

“It’s important that people can see us. Representation is so key, and young black girls are looking up to us and they want us to know that they’re probably gonna stick around in this sport longer because they can see themselves in us.”

Dunn and Williams agreed that the NWSL has improvements to make on issues of race.

Asked if there’s one thing the league could be doing right now to elevate Black women and Black athletes, Dunn talked about getting more people of color into positions of authority.

“I think (we need) more diversity in various job opportunities,” Dunn said. “I just think that is really how you create a safer space, a more inviting space for minorities.”

They agreed that growing the game can and should start with more diversity at the top.

“So many people talk about working from the bottom up and I’m like, why can’t we work from the top down?” Williams said. “If somebody isn’t up there that looks like me or looks like you, how are we expecting them to represent us?”

“A lot of these media people are not people of color,” Dunn said. “So now you have people putting out messages that may not align with actually how you feel and that’s when we run into issues. Then we have to put out apology statements saying, ‘No, we didn’t really mean that.’ And it’s just like, if we have people who actually represent what some of the players in this league look like, I do think that could be the biggest difference.”

“How many times has a club had to apologize for a statement in the past year?” Williams added. “It’s ridiculous. It’s just like, get it right the first time.”

Listen to the rest of the important conversation in the full podcast here.