Over at Grantland, Caleb Hannan takes a good, long look at MLS and its strong crackdown on homophobia.
The writer’s basic takeaway: MLS’s audience is younger than other sports leagues, making them more intolerant of anti-gay slurs, racism, and other societal ugliness. As a result, suspending players like Marc Burch and Colin Clark is both the right thing to do and good business.
That logic seems to make sense to me, but I’m not sure it goes far enough. By cracking down hard on players who use anti-gay slurs, Commissioner Don Garber is taking a stand that other league commissioners won’t, or at least haven’t, taken. This is perhaps a cynical read, but it gives MLS an advantage over American leagues. It’s a policy they can be proud of, but also one that is forward-thinking and better than what other, more established leagues currently have. (In some ways, it reminds me a little of MLS advocating for the use of goalline technology, albeit in a very different way.)
I’m not saying Garber and the other decisionmakers took this into account when deciding what to do about Clarke, whose suspension set the precedent. They made the right call there, and they should be proud they are sticking to it. All I’m saying is that MLS is a league that needs press and it’s nice it worked out this way. As Hannan writes, the policy is “both good for business and good for the game.”