Oakland Roots Sports Club makes Black history on and off the field

The Oakland Roots Sports Club has always prided itself on being about more than soccer, and about putting Oakland first.

But for the team, the last few years have brought an even deeper discussion about where players and staff wants to stand in this moment in history.

The club's technical director Jordan Ferrell and its director of player personnel Nana Attakora both say Black History Month is about both reflecting on history and making it.

"If I could be that positive, you know, person that a young Black kid it's up to," says Attakora, "I am going to be there because that's what I do in my life."

And what has been happening in the world has forever changed the conversation in society and in sports.

Ferrell says, "the pandemic happened, like athletes now feel differently about speaking out and being athlete activists than ever before. And so sport organizations are going to have to deal with this in a way that they never have."

In February of 2020, the second season for the Oakland Roots Sports Club was about to start.

At the time, Ferrell was head coach and was making history then as one of only two Black head coaches among the 82 pro soccer teams in the United States.  

For Jordan it was important in part because "if people don't see someone doing it they don't believe that they can do it."

Attakora was a captain.  

He was a seasoned professional who came to the roots looking for something more.

"I was a pro athlete for 15 years and I was looked at as just an athlete," says Attakora, "That's not easy to deal with, but I'm more than that. I'm a human being like, I have feelings. I have family like, view me as not just an entertainer."

Months later, the pandemic had changed the world, and the death George Floyd had sparked protest and difficult dialogue.  

"The Roots for sure, are playing a big role and just switching a conversation like change the conversation," says Attakora. "And I think that's what it's all about, like uncomfortable conversations and the Roots of being a leader in that space. And it's great to see other teams following what you are doing. "

Now almost two years later much has changed for the world and for these two men.  

Attakora retired from playing and Jordan Ferrell took a leadership position.

"Yes, we are making history," explains Ferrell. "We are really breaking those boundaries I think that's for me, was one reason to step into the technical director seat. There's very few Black coaches, but similar to that, there's very few Black technical directors."

It has been a time of deep reflection but Ferrell says, "I don't think that we would be where we are now today without that pause that we all experienced globally. "

"The Roots allow me to be a driver and live a life I believe in and that's been the best therapy for the past two years," Attakora said.

And they say now more than ever they reflect on the progress made by those who came before them, and they role they and the Roots will play in shaping history now. 

"It's scary. It's a scary thing to speak up sometimes," admits Attakora. But he says it's worth it when "you believe in something as much as I believe in."

Ferrell shares the sentiment. 

"I think that's the responsibility of generations before to teach generations afterwards, always."