Skip to main content

#28BlackStories: Kendall Reyes’ 29-Year Fight for Racial Inclusion & Women’s Soccer Access

By February 7, 2023No Comments

Co-Owner of Sparta 20/20 FC soccer team shares his journey of advocating for women and people of color since 1994

Kendall Reyes, co-owner and founder of the Sparta 20/20 FC soccer team, has had an extraordinarily impactful life-long career in the sport. In his youth, Reyes was a soccer player in his homeland, Trinidad, and relocated to the United States after high school on a soccer scholarship to Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. After graduating, Kendall was invited to serve as an assistant coach and receive a master’s degree scholarship to continue his studies.

During that time, many colleges and universities were coming face-to-face with decisions about sports inclusion. Congress had enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which requires that no person be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex under any education program or activity receiving Federal assistance. Institutions across the nation were opting to defund or drop certain men’s sports rather than add women’s alternatives where possible, and Francis Marion University was one of them.

“It was the easy way out,” recalled Reyes in a recent interview with The Doug Williams Center. “This law was asking [these institutions] to create opportunities for women, not to close doors for everyone.” He was shocked and indignant when he heard the news. At the time, he was in his final semester of undergraduate studies and had served as student assistant soccer coach the prior Fall season. 

When he encountered the decision-makers who were threatening to terminate soccer programming on campus he remembers asking, “‘Why don’t you drop baseball?’ And [the administrators] just looked at me. ‘Did you explore opening the opportunities for women to participate freely as men?’ In a program with only four black players, I was not only battling for our program, but for women to have the same opportunity as we did.”

Determined to be heard and impassioned by the injustice, Reyes began campaigning for soccer programming for both genders on the University’s campus. “I drafted a proposal detailing how to start the women’s soccer program, how to fund it, how to find the players and coach, and submitted it to every member of the Board of Trustees.” Kendall had seen articles about other institutions where women students were signing petitions to put pressure on their institutions to add sports for them. “I collaborated with the student government leaders, who were Black women, and together we got over one hundred signatures the night before the Board would meet. That morning, my head soccer coach Tom Davidson gave me the floor during the Board meeting so I could be the voice for my team and the women as well. I presented my research and the petition of the student body . After hearing from me, they eventually voted unanimously and decided to keep funding our men’s soccer and add a team for women, of which I became the assistant coach along with the men’s program for 5 years.”

After coaching the soccer teams he had helped develop, Reyes spent the next 12 years coaching women’s soccer programs. First, he served as Head Coach at Newberry College for two years, and was next responsible for the inaugural women’s team at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Fall of 2000, which he coached for 10 years. During his time coaching at the college level, he dealt with the challenges of being a Black head coach and realized the importance of being at the table to make decisions. “Dealing with administration as a Black head coach is not always the easiest path if you don’t have the right support.”

With this in mind, Reyes partnered with long-time friend Andy Salandy, who had a sports management company, and began working on team ownership and league building initiatives. Together they worked to expand the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) on the East Coast, creating teams including Sparta  20/20FC with Reyes as head coach and co-owner with Raymond Curry. (Since 2020, Sparta hasn’t operated due to the financial hardship which arose from COVID-19). For Reyes, owning a team is not about personal prestige; it’s about having the agency to create opportunities for all people and give back to the community. He emphasizes choosing players not just based on skill level, but also on their ability to represent these values and their willingness to participate in community advancement work.

According to Reyes, in the early 2000s it was common to see few if any Black woman players on the field. “I asked Leslie Logwood from Richmond VA, ‘How do you feel being the only Black woman on the team?’ She said it didn’t bother her, because she was used to always being the only one. That inspired me to ensure there were more opportunities for Black women players. The next year, we had six Black women on the team because I intentionally began recruiting them. People asked if there was a new institutional or NCAA rule that was forcing me to add more Black players,” Reyes laughed. “No one asked the basketball coach that question. So I said, no, these are fantastic players, you should come see them play.” 

As a team owner, Kendall Reyes now has the freedom to prioritize inclusion and align team direction with his values. “The diversity that we’ve brought to the game is the most unique part of the teams we have created,” he shares. He cited that a large part of the Hispanic community was excluded from mainstream participation in soccer.  Now they make up 60-70% of the Sparta 20/20 team.” 

“For any owner, company, or business who is not taking DEI seriously, you’re cheating your customers, clientele, and yourself out of the best,” said Reyes. “If you’re only looking in one basket, you won’t find the best, you have to look at them all. There is no time for just checking boxes or meeting quotas, you have to be real with this.”

Ever the family man and humble leader, Reyes was sure to thank his wife, Rev. E. Pearl Reyes and his family for their support throughout his career. “I thank God for ordering my steps and giving me the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with. Along these pathways there are many sacrifices and there have been many people who have supported me whether from a distance or up close. I want to acknowledge everyone who helped make this ownership dream a reality, it’s not a one-man-show.”

The Doug Williams Center is honored to highlight Rev. Kendall Reyes as part of our #28BlackStories campaign. His passion for the sport and commitment to creating opportunities for all are truly inspiring. See the rest of our campaign on all @dougwilliamscenter social media handles and join The Huddle at to be part of building solutions for social advancement. 

Leave a Reply