War of Words

Not too long ago I had a hearty chuckle at Major League Soccer Players Union boss Bob Foose, whose dire warnings about how FIFA would throw the US out of the World Cup if MLS didn't cave in to the players was met with derision far and wide.

As I said at the time, I'm sure Foose is good at his job but the US Soccer community isn't as stupid as he apparently thought and, frankly, knows a steaming pile of crapola when they see it.

Be that as it may, this statement, coming hard on the heels of comments like the ones he made in THIS ARTICLE, made it clear the Union was demanding that the league toss out the business model which created it, a position which struck most observers as unreasonable at best.

After all, the owners started a business where there was none before, and created jobs for hundreds of American players. For those players to then demand that they themselves get to redesign the leagues' business structure isn't an easy sell.

Particularly in light of Commissioner Garbers' (entirely correct) response that MLS has no intention whatever of making major structural changes, which created the impression that there was little room for compromise, it's interesting but not surprising that we've heard nary a sound from Foose since.

Of course, it's normally bad policy in situations like this to center a PR effort around an obscure lawyer nobody has ever heard of instead of players that everybody loves and respects, and it appears that the MLSPU has figured that out. Nothing personal, but Foose can take a flying you-know-what for all anyone cares.

Conversely, comments like the ones CREW KEEPER WIL HESMER to Shawn Mitchell back in early November, when he said "Based off of what was last proposed, this doesn't end well" have been nipped in the bud, as well they should.

Putting a nice smiley face on a naked power play and greedfest like a CBA negotiation isn't easy. Everybody wants to appear to be the aggrieved party. Normally, the players try to make the case that they're just working stiffs, lunchpail carrying guys who are just trying to put food on the table.

That of course is much easier in MLS than, say, Major League baseball where, for the players, "tightening the belt" means laying off one of the gardeners.

For their part, MLS has had little to say beyond the fact that a) they're not redesigning MLS and b) talking about a strike and/or lockout is both counterproductive and premature.

Otherwise they've said nothing, one good reason being that they don't have to, since the players have a much higher stake in not appearing to be the bad guys.

If everyone concludes that the owners are the worst labor oppressors since Henry Ford they're still going to come out and see the players play. If fans conclude that the players are nothing but a bunch of greedy, self-absorbed whiners, it has much more dire consequences for everybody.

Which brings us to the FIFPro statement from Monday, which makes it clear that a) FIFPro is even more irrelevant and clueless than we already thought and b) the union has trotted out Landon Donovan as their public face.

The first thing you notice about the FIFPro statement is that it's exactly the same statement they issued a month ago, including the same ridiculous stuff about MLS being a "cabal".

Someone needs to tell them that a United States Federal Court has ruled that MLS is not anything of the sort, and them repeating the charge is not only unhelpful but, frankly, makes them look like idiots.

Increasingly, the go-to guy in all of this is FAKE SIGI who links today to, among other things, comments from Peter Wilt, an excellent piece by Beau Dure and some intersting stuff on Pitch invasion.

(And despite the deranged mewlings from North of the Ice Curtain, no, FS isn't me. Would that it was so, since one of these days he'll probably have my job and I'll have to become Fake Preki or something.)

Anyway, FS provides some excellent commentary on the FIFPro position, and I would only add that while it was irrelevant when it was first issued it's even more so now that everyone has been deriding it for a month.

Thankfully, they've dropped the ludicrous "demand" that FIFA intercede, since FIFA is about as likely to try and overturn a US Court ruling or fight US labor laws as they are to demand that Jack Warner pay that one million dollar fine from 2006 for kiting tickets.

Still, with 24 days to go before a deadline that few people think will be significantly extended, the PLAYERS HAVE STRUCK UPON A UNIFIED MESSAGE, and it's a good one:

We're just asking for "the same rights that players around the world enjoy".

It's interesting that both Donovan and Keller use the same terms. It's almost as if someone is providing talking points. Imagine that.

Bottom line, there was no reason for the FIFPro to re-release the same tired litany of abuses except that they now have Donovan and Keller quotes, and that, I think, is the point.

The mistake, I think, is that the MLSPU seems to feel FIFPro means something to somebody, which smells a lot like a Foose kind of program. FIFPro is almost entirely irrelevant even in Europe, although FIFA gives them lip service. In the US, the DAR has more influence on public opinion.

The Union is on the right track with Donovan and Keller and the not-entirely-accurate-but-close-enough-for-the-purpose "we want the same rights as everybody else" meme, which rings nicely in American ears.

The fact that Donovans' statement appears to have been scripted for him by Foose & Co. is entirely beside the point. That's normal and expected.

What's interesting is that Foose may feel he's losing the public debate and needs to mount a better defense. What he hopes to gain is anybody's guess.

Just a word of advice though: forget FIFPro, Bob. Maybe they sound impressive to you, but nobody cares.

Landon, on the other hand: heck, even the Mexicans like him now.