The New York Red Bulls’ most famous faces decided not to make themselves available to the media (again) Wednesday night, and the outcry for MLS to take action grows stronger. And while I agree to some extent, there are issues.
First question: What power, exactly, does MLS wield to make them speak? Fines won’t work. Due to the salary structure, they are an untenable option for the league’s richest players. Suspensions are out of the question. The league has enough problems dealing with the retroactive suspension/fine problem; the last thing MLS HQ needs is more fallout over an issue as benign (and rather ridiculous) as players not talking to the media.
That said, MLS needs to do something because it’s a terrible precedent. While there’s nothing that says Marquez and Henry have to make themselves available, they really should. They are being paid very well to be more than a pair of boots. As Alex Labidou and others have pointed out, they are also ambassadors to the sport. That means showing up to events, doing promotional work, and talking to the media when you have better things to do. When seen in that light, it’s no longer an issue of a few reporters not getting quotes; it’s one of two of the league’s most highly visible players not doing their part to grow MLS and the sport in general. Henry, at least, has seemed genuinely interested in doing so in the past. (Marquez, however, is another story.)
So no, Don Garber should not fine Henry, Marquez, or anyone else who doesn’t want to talk to the media. But it might behoove him to jump on the PATH, head out to Red Bull Arena, and have a little chat with the pair. You know, remind them that they have 10 million reasons to help out just a bit.
When it comes to soccer in America, staying silent is never the right decision.