image_pdf
The MHS boys soccer seniors, led by captain Felipe Gutierrez, helped the team raise over $5,000 for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Pictured are, from left, Gutierrez, Dylan Schulman, Aidan McGrath, Soren Tolls and Luca Campbell.
COURTESY TOURE WEAVER

by Andrew Garda
garda@montclairlocal.news

The Mounties boys soccer team had watched the marches for George Floyd, the protests across the world, and the movement to support Black Lives Matter, and felt they had to do something.

So they did, setting up a GoFundMe and raising $5,720 as of Aug. 28, $3,720 more than their initial goal of $2,000. Donations are still being accepted, with all proceeds going to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Senior captain Felipe Gutierrez said the initial idea came as he was talking to friends he knew from club soccer who were doing charity runs and other things to raise money and awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Gutierrez personally had been looking to do something since the marches in June, which he couldn’t participate in because he has a younger sibling who has health issues. At the same time, he didn’t want it to be just a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing effort. 

Another thing that activated the team was a virtual call with head coach Touré Weaver and the coaching staff about the racial issues everyone was watching unfold across the country. 

“We had a team Zoom for the whole program,” Weaver said on a recent call. “I was really  emotional about it. The community that we have on the team, how diverse it is, I’m sure that there were guys feeling certain ways. So we opened it up for people to express how they were feeling if they felt moved to, I kind of talked to the guys [about] how I was feeling.”

Weaver said a few days later Gutierrez reached out.

“Felipe came to me and said that he knew that there were some other programs doing different things, and he thought it was important for us to do something,” Weaver recalled. “I think he brought it to some of the seniors, too. So then we just started brainstorming.”

The initial plan, Gutierrez said, was that they would open captains practices to other levels. In order to take part, you were supposed to get a sponsor, and after the four-week session, the athletes would get money from their sponsors.

It didn’t take four weeks for things to get going, though.


READ: SOME YOUTH SPORTS ARE GETTING BACK ON THE FIELD IN MONTCLAIR


“We tried to stick with our original idea, but it ended up being, like, in the first three days we had raised over our goal of $2,000,” Gutierrez said. “And it was just like parents like finding out, sharing the links throughout the town.”

He said it went far beyond the high school organization.

“People were donating that I don’t even know if they have connections, or if their kids play soccer, “ he said. “So it was just kind of like, all of a sudden everyone was just donating before we had even started this whole thing. And we ended up still raising more money once the cycle ended.”

On the main GoFundMe page, the description of the effort states, “We would like to make a difference because this is not a moment, it is a movement,” a phrase used by many involved in local efforts for police reform and raising awareness of systemic racism. 

Gutierrez said that it’s important to him that this is the beginning of something, not the entire effort, because letting the momentum go isn’t solving anything.

“I think once you stop [working], it’s hard to recover, and I think with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, right now this is the time when we need to keep going and keep raising awareness, keep raising money, because I think this is the only way that we can put an end to this.”

Across the country, athletes are taking a stand. Last week, the National Basketball Association and Women’s National Basketball Association decided to postpone their playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks walked off the court in protest of the police shooting of Blake. The Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball did the same, followed by many other baseball clubs. 

MHS soccer captain Felipe Gutierrez led the charge on the Mountie fundraiser, which has totaled over $5,000 to date.
ANDREW GARDA/STAFF

Several NFL teams skipped practice the next day to discuss that shooting, as well as the subsequent shooting of protesters by a 17-year old in Kenosha, Wis.

Gutierrez said you don’t need to be a professional athlete to make a big impact, and he, along with his senior teammates, wants to make a difference off the field as well.

“I think for the seniors, we definitely don’t want to be done here,” he said. “We still want to make an impact. We want to make a mark on the program, not just as a soccer team, but also something really influential in the community.”

“I think the guys wanted to take a role and be a part,” Weaver said. “Not just be aware of what’s happening, but also partake in trying to help solve the issue, you know? The guys will have to be proactive about it. And I think that that was super-important, and I’m just really proud the guys were taking the initiative to digest, be aware of it and know about it, but also want to help resolve these issues we are having in our society.”

Those wishing to contribute to the MHS Mounties boys soccer team’s fundraising effort can find the donation page here.