Arnold Rijsenburg's Personal Testimony on Racial Equity

The words, “We’re not ready for a black head coach” still ring loudly in my ears. Plain and simple, that’s the way they put it. I sat there, staring at the gatekeepers of my future, watching the white elite of a European club with a century of history sit there and smile in quiet contentment, as they dangled the keys of my dreams in front of me. They told me I was in every way deserving of the opportunity, it’s just too bad I was a black man. Too bad for me. Too bad indeed. 

For this reason, I left Europe behind me. I brought my family across the Atlantic to the United States of America. A land where all men are created equal. And to a place where a few good souls didn’t care about the color of my skin but rather believed in the value of my talents, in the courage of my convictions. My new home was to be Salt Lake City. My new club Real Salt Lake. My family and I basked in the glory of its beauty, its possibility. I was to be the Academy Director of Coaching. I was to build and to shape the next generation of elite footballers in a major league and in the land of the free. What more could I ask for? Admittance to an arena at last, a chance at my life’s pursuits.

Then, on May 25th, 2020 I watched the murder of George Floyd. I watched him suffocate in broad daylight, in the middle of the street as a man kneeled on his neck. In that moment, as if I was being suffocated myself, I felt the full weight of the racist reality of the world. There is no escape. No country where one is judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of one’s character. There is no escape. No worthy words of condolence or consolation. There is only the need for action and for change. The need for courage in leading and educating others in eliminating racial discrimination. I was hired to raise footballers. But it was in this moment I realized I could never again do just that. I had to raise good men.

As the leader of sixty boys of the next generation it is my responsibility to guide them in the understanding of the current world. I will never hide their eyes from its horrors, but rather educate and provide them with a safe environment to learn and to discuss matters of racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusivity. I know this is the only way forward. The way forward that led to our participation with RISE. For only together can we be champions of change. The sport of football has nearly unlimited global influence. But it is up to those within the game to use that influence for good or for ill.

This is how I choose to run the academy. This is my mission. This is my dream.

This is Real Salt Lake.

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