The report aired by HBO’s Real Sports on Tuesday night regarding the odious situation at Chivas USA offered precious little new information to anyone familiar with the recently filed lawsuit. It did, however, provide powerful imagery to accompany a chilling, one-sided narrative alleging rampant, institutionalized racial discrimination at the club.
A sympathetic young boy and his mother who felt forced out of the Chivas USA youth academy due to their race and a questionnaire designed to ascertain his lineage. A pair of former MLS players and Chivas USA academy coaches allegedly fired from their jobs despite satisfactory job performance because they did not embody the Mexican heritage of the club. And a former Mexican international – a decent man with absolutely no business handling these sorts of delicate matters – sacrificed on camera by his club to answer questions evasively and shepherded off-screen by his handlers when the interview inevitably reflected his untenable position.
Lawyers and judges will sort out the outcome of the claims brought by Dan Calichman and Ted Chronopoulous at some point in the medium- and the long-term. More than likely, the case will settle before Chivas USA attempts to mount a defense in court. No lawyer – even one prepared to exploit the vagaries of California employment discrimination law – wants to involve a jury when these sorts of fact patterns are involved.
The damage from this report will linger no matter the outcome. This unseemly sequence of events reflects poorly on Chivas USA (even if you support the decisions the club made, the emergence and the handling of this imbroglio looks amateurish at best) and unkindly on MLS (for its inability to stop the nonsense, though its hands are somewhat tied due to its structure and its potential legal exposure). It is, on the whole, the sort of scandal that emerges when a club isn’t functioning efficiently or intelligently.
Club owner Jorge Vergara’s practices at Chivas USA have been called into question (Photo: Gerardo Zavala/Getty Images)
Chivas USA exacerbated the problem on Wednesday by issuing a typically rambling press release decrying the package. The riposte included a list of the national origins of the employees at the club, a rebuke of the one-sided nature of the report and a quote from H.G. Wells:
"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
And, in its own way, the Red-and-White does have a point. Real Sports did not delve into the reasons why Chivas USA cherishes its Mexican roots. It did not convey the tradition cultivated over years and years of success in Mexico. It did not explain why C.D. Guadalajara maintains its policy of fielding players eligible for the Mexican national teams, nor did it mention the cadre of Dutchmen involved with the club over the years or the number of dual-nationals who have worn the club colors. It did not provide the context required to offer substantive judgment based on a thorough review of all of the factors involved.
Unfortunately for Chivas USA, those perfectly reasonable protestations tend to get lost in the shuffle of such irresponsible behavior and such a compelling story. The images, not the context, matter most in these sorts of cases. And the optics here portray a disheveled club that acted wantonly and exposed itself to the invasive questions and unflattering stories that subsequently followed.
Chivas USA have struggled to make their mark since their entry in Major League Soccer back in 2004 (Photo: Ric Tapia/Getty Images).