MLS Is Back And So Is Bradley Wright-Phillips

On this episode of The Sports Bubble, host Jensen Karp talks with LAFC striker and two-time Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips about the Covid-19 playing conditions in Orlando, how his family is holding up in quarantine, his unvarnished thoughts on the Black Lives Matter protests, and what’s going on with the British grime and hip-hop music scene. Recently, Major League Soccer started back up with a tournament in Florida, quarantining players in hotels for months at a time and keeping them apart when they’re not on the field. The hardest part? Trying to explain to his 3-, 7-, and 11-year-old kids that he’s going to Disney World without them, Bradley laughs.

Though he had a legendary run with the New York Red Bulls as a two-time All-Star and two-time MVP winner, Bradley was largely written off in his last season after he was injured. While Jensen says he deserved better, Bradley says it was a huge motivator. “I just thought, ‘I don’t want to go out like that’….so it gave me a new lease on life….I just can’t wait to get out there and prove myself.” And even though he joined LAFC this year and hasn’t had many opportunities to get to know his teammates – players could access training facilities throughout the lockdown, but had to train alone – he says he still feels like one of the guys: “They’ve been really good to me.” It’s hard to say whether or not they’ll win this tournament, because each team handled their training in quarantine differently, but he promises LAFC has been training extremely hard and “the talent is obvious.” Sounds like we’re in for some good games, even with empty stands. 

As for the racial inequalities in soccer and society, Bradley is only too aware; Jensen mentions infamous stories of black players being thrown bananas, fans screaming slurs at them, players afraid to leave the stadium, and many others that point out the starkness of racism in European soccer. How does he feel about the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement, Jensen asks, and particularly about how MLS players are showing solidarity? Bradley is a little cynical. “I like it, but….it feels like a trend now,” with people and companies posting a black picture to look good and then moving on with the same racist behaviors. “I don’t need sympathy,” he says flatly. “I want real change or don’t come to me.” Listen to the episode for more about his perspective on the movement, how the team is adapting to the new way, what music he’s listening to now, and much more on The Sports Bubble.

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