Getting Robbie Rogers back into MLS uniform would be wonderful for everyone, for the larger message of acceptance, for the added quality, for the added media exposure that would surely come tumbling in and, not least, for the man himself.
Rogers wants to play in Los Angeles, understandably so. All the nervous parts would unfold closer to family and to familiar elements. And let’s not kid ourselves; performing as the first openly gay male in U.S. professional sports is high on the nervy scale.
So, clearly this is a special situation.
But how special? And how special does it need to be treated when it comes to roster policies? Because Rogers’ MLS rights belong elsewhere, and at some point, rules are rules.
The league needs to handle this with some care – and so far that hasn’t happened. MLS commissioner Don Garber doesn’t sound like he’s too worried about tampering here. Perhaps technically it doesn’t quality because Chicago signed off on Rogers training with the Galaxy.
But can’t MLS play this out a little and then recognize how it will be seen if not handled just so?
Yes, it would be good if Chicago arranged a deal with the Galaxy. But, again, at some point a league is a league and the Fire has every right to pursue maximum value in a swap. At some point, Rogers is an asset just like any other, one for which Chicago traded another asset previously.
Rogers removed any leverage that Chicago may have held with his revelation this morning that he isn’t very interested in playing for the Fire, that he would just “punt” instead of moving to Illinois. So, game over for the Fire.
MLS teams have been strong-armed into dealing with little leverage before. It happened with Freddy Adu and Dallas, which pretty much gave him away to D.C. United. It happened with promising U.S. under-20 attacker Luis Gil, whose rights were held by Kansas City but who wanted to be in Utah with Real Salt Lake.
Another “pennies on the dollar” arrangement that is, uh, “encouraged” by the league will be seen differently this time. Why? First because there will be far more eyes on this one.
But the bigger problem is that it’s the Galaxy. You know … David Beckham, Landon Donovan, AEG power suits, potential landing strip for Frank Lampard or Kaka or … well, you get the message.
Perhaps Chicago should take a little less than market value “for the good of the league.” But it’s naïve to think that all fans in all markets are going to see it that way.
After all, some might rightly say, there is another team in Southern California, right?