ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
Chris Wondolowski, Kiowa, knows history when he sees it.
The 37-year-old Major League Soccer veteran and the league's all-time leading scorer watched as the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play in a playoff game to protest social injustice. Other athletes followed their lead across sports, from the WNBA to Major League Baseball to the NHL and yes, to MLS and Wondolowski's own team.
“Credit to Milwaukee and credit to a lot of NBA players. Doc Rivers’ message was moving. I can go down the list, but Chris Webers’ was unreal. Kenny Smith walking off the set live, it was unreal," Wondolowski said. “That’s something that I’ll always remember. And even coming home last night and having to explain to my daughter why I didn’t play. ... It’s something that should not be taking place but needs to be taking place.”
Wondolowski, who has spent all but three seasons of his 16-year career playing for the San Jose Earthquakes, spoke with conviction about Black Lives Matter and the responsibility of athletes to use their platforms.
“We don’t want lip service anymore," he said. "It’s time for actual actions to be made, and time for a change.”
This is also personal: Wondolowski pointed to the fact that Native Americans have traditionally been undercounted in the census, and an earlier deadline for the 2020 Census again threatens to impact representation.
“It’s just one of the many, many microcosms of how the social injustices plagued our culture. And it’s so sad to see,” he said.
Known for his easygoing nature, Wondo grew up in the San Francisco suburb of Danville. He played at tiny Division II Chico State. He went on to play for the U.S. national team. One of the oldest and longest-tenured players in MLS, he was the Golden Boot winner in 2010 and 2012.
Wondolowski currently has 161 career goals, an ever-growing record, including two this season.
“There’s no way I can say that I have experienced the same injustices that some of these other people have experienced. But I know that these are my brothers as well,” Wondolowski said. “I really do consider them family. These are my brothers and this cause is worth fighting for."