We got a taste on Monday, but once the segment on HBO’s Real Sports aired last night, there was a newly palpable buzz surrounding discrimination allegations made against Chivas USA. For people who’ve followed the situation since Jorge Vergara assumed control of the club, there wasn’t any new information, but watching a news magazine like Inside Sports pick at the morsels we’ve been rolling around for months, you knew the controversy was going to hit a new level. There’s just something about a reporter like Soledad O’Brien interviewing the likes of James Riley, Dan Calichman and Teddy Chronopoulous (ex-coaches who have filed suit against the club), and a mother whose child was turned away from the club’s youth program that gives the story that extra weight.
Perhaps that’s why Chivas USA has decided to respond, with a release posted to the club’s web site earlier today. Here’s the English version, though as you’ll infer from a reading, the Spanish one better represents the club’s feelings on last night’s report:
One of the biggest strengths we have at Chivas USA is the talented and dedicated employees that make up our community, in which diversity prevails by having different nationalities, cultures and beliefs. Chivas USA is formed by employees from Argentina, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain, and the United States. We aim to work in an environment reigned by harmony, regardless of skin color, language, and beliefs, which is also the base to one of our greatest strengths, as it allows multiple ideas to flow and complement each other.
Therefore, we are disappointed by the intent of some individuals who have chosen to use our diversity to define our club as a racist and discriminatory environment by reporting an incomplete and one-sided story in order to damage the image of Chivas USA and the hard working individuals who are part of our community.
At Chivas USA we are all part of the same Red-and-White colors and ideology, which strives for both personal and professional fulfillment on and off the field.
We absolutely reject any form of discrimination and racism.
“Our true nationality is mankind.” H. G. Wells
As strange as this story is, adding a high school yearbook quote to the end of an official (and quite serious) press release makes the whole thing so much more bizarre. When Chivas are in court defending themselves against Calichman and Chronopoulous’s suit, are they going to offer Wells’ platitude as a defense of their actions? And at this point, would we be shocked if they did?
Beyond Chivas USA, who are obviously making this bed for themselves, last night’s report was a black eye for Major League Soccer, who declined to speak to HBO but did offer them a statement. As O’Brien stood in a production studio, reading the league’s words in front of a televised league logo, you felt the helpless, hapless situation MLS has allowed itself to embrace. And with Vergara offering up the likes of Francisco “Paco” Palencia as last night’s sacrificial lamb, who knows how many times club officials (and by extention, the single-entity league) are going to be made to look foolish as they try to defend a concept which runs so contrary to North American sports culture, if not law.
Given the scope of Major League Soccer in the broader landscape, this still has the potential to blow over. Ten minutes on subscription cable isn’t going to define this issue. However, if Chivas USA continues to flounder, make mistakes, and doesn’t somehow correct course, HBO’s work will be linked to over and over again by people who need examples of Vergara’s misdeeds.
The information may not have been new, but now it’s all synthesized in one place, the story told coherently by a respected journalist. ‘Thorn in the side’ could be an understatement.