Jamia Fields is a forward for the Houston Dash of the NWSL

In the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting, we have seen a lot of athletes using their platforms to demand change. The Black players of the NWSL also released a powerful statement in response. Can you talk to me about what being a part of that statement means and your perspective? 

I think it shows that we’re moving in the right direction. It’s terrible that all these things had to happen, or continue to happen, to come together as Black players in the league to make a statement. But I understand that we’re making a movement together, for the Black athletes in the league and the Black community as a whole.

What was the league’s response to your statements?

I’ve seen a couple statements, but overall the league has been supportive with our statement. They don’t really have a choice because we put it out there. As a Black players union, our goal really is to just come together and have a voice. Hopefully, people support it. If they don’t, we can all keep continuing to learn, but the league has been responding well and we’re appreciative of that. They’re trying to push for change.

After the statements made by Hansen, what is the hope for the future of NWSL ownership and how do you think the league can continue to progress?

Well, yes, the statements — they were terrible. Those things can’t be said. They show zero support. Black players, in this league, and across multiple leagues from the WNBA at the forefront and the MLS… we deserve better. We deserve to be seen. We deserve to fight against the injustices that are happening. And that’s what we’re trying to do.

Does your team or the NWSL have any plans for social justice messaging during the Fall Series at all?

Well, we do have plans. We are trying to lead a few initiatives, and we are trying to really piggyback off of what the WNBA has done. Obviously we have to stand on our own, as our league and ourselves, but we see how the WNBA has progressed and handled fighting for change. We definitely, as a league, as a whole — we need to be role models.

What have you learned about the role that athletes have to play in national conversations around race and social justice?

Well, this world kind of revolves around sports in a way. I’ve just been very proud and thankful for how many men and women athletes have been taking a stand and using their platforms to just really catch the eyes of America, and be like, “Hey, I know we’re good at our craft, but these topics are more important. These topics deserve the attention ahead of our games.” Right? So I’m just really proud of the female and male athletes that have really pushed for this.

 Is there anything that you have personally been using this time to reflect on? 

I just think that I can figure out more ways I can help fight for change. I think all of us wish we just had the one answer that would correct everything. I have been doing a lot of reflecting on how I can continue to use my platform, use my voice, to push for change. Both in the league and in my community.

 What have the conversations been like between teammates while all of this is going on? 

A lot of conversations are happening. We all have different perspectives, we’re all raised differently, we’re of different races. But I think these conversations are important due to the fact that we have been raised differently and we are different. We should come together and see each other’s perspectives. There were a lot of conversations at the tournament, and now, here in Houston, we have been collaborating with the MLS a little bit, trying to figure out how our organizations can make a bigger impact on the Black and Brown community in Houston.

Was there anything else that you wanted to mention that I didn’t bring up?

In sports, our voices are so powerful. And so in these leagues, in these seasons, I keep highlighting the WNBA, and that needs to be pushed in our league because we’re not a minority Black league. The NWSL is predominantly white. We need to try harder with using our voices and our platform, know when our games are aired on TV we can use that platform to be able to show like “Hey, these are injustices that are happening, and we need justice to happen.” I’d just like to really highlight that point.

Jamia Fields is a forward for the Houston Dash of the NWSL. A graduate of Florida State University, she helped lead the Seminoles to their first ever NCAA title in 2014.

Why do you think it’s important to speak out now? 

“It’s very important because we all have our own experiences that I feel like we’ve been suppressing for so many years. Maybe we’ve been in a situation where we felt that we couldn’t really speak out. And I know there’s a divide in the world right now, but I do feel that because so many people are coming out to support this cause, this is a perfect time to join the movement and to really push for change.”

It’s no secret that women’s soccer tends to be, well, pretty white. How has your experience in soccer intersected with some of what’s happening now?

“Yeah, growing up in Southern California, I was always one of the only black girls on my team. I always felt welcomed, but there were definitely times when I felt like the odd one out. And then, going to Florida State, there were a lot of black girls when I got there. I think God did that to give me a different type of experience. There were a lot of different cultures on my team at Florida State. And that was really, really amazing, something that I really needed. I was really immersed in the black culture. That was a real turning point in my life where I actually got to see black is beautiful, first of all. Growing up in Southern California, it was really just blond, blue eyed girls, honestly. But going to Florida State, I was like, ‘Okay.’ You know? There were six black girls on my team at one point. I was like, ‘What is this? This is crazy.’ That was so amazing.”

It’s wild to think that it was only when you were 18 that you saw other people who looked like you on your team. It’s honestly pretty heartbreaking. 

“I literally remember mentioning to my parents, like, “There’s other black girls on my team.” Like, “What?” It was such an exciting thing. I was so shocked. And the fact that that’s something that’s shocking is what’s sad. And then, going into the pros, it’s kind of a similar situation where there’s very few black people. You have to be confident in your skin when you’re the minority in that situation. That’s just how it has to be because, like I said, you’re outnumbered. And even if the people are loving, and on many of those teams, I felt loved, it’s still a personal battle. People might still say things that they don’t even know are wrong. It’s a lot.”

What do you think needs to change? I realize that’s a big question. 

“I have a lot of friends reaching out, which I’m really thankful for because I feel the love and the support. And that’s just the main thing right now. I feel like people, black people, black women, black men, we need to feel the love and support because it’s been a long time of suppressing feelings and feeling outnumbered. And this is just a weird situation. With this question, I just don’t really know how to answer it all the time… In my life at least, stepping a little bit out of my comfort zone is what helped me grow the most, so I encourage people to do that, even if it’s small steps. Reach out to your black friends or coworkers. Help them feel loved and supported. And then ask each person ‘How can I support you? How can I help you?’ Because everyone’s needs may be different.”

Why do you think that athletes, in particular, are speaking out in such numbers?

“Well, I feel athletes already have it in them to be competitive and to fight. Now they want to fight for what is right. In different sports too, people have a lot of black teammates, and I think that’s causing people to step up. I think it goes back to that competitive desire, though. Athletes have it in them to push for something. And right now, it’s pushing for change, it’s pushing to win against injustice.”

Anything else you’d like to share with our audience? 

“I just want to encourage people to continue to push themselves outside their comfort zone and to use their voice. I know everyone’s saying it, but I feel like that is what’s going to create change. I’m also really thankful for you and this platform, because we need platforms like this who are open to talking about racism and are willing to say that black lives matter. These platforms are going to create change.”