In an infamous and now-deleted editorial posted on Wednesday, former Chicago Fire director of communications Dan Lobring told the world that attending his team's games is a potentially unsafe experience. This naturally led to a significant backlash among Fire fans, and, perhaps, more surprisingly, got a great deal of traction in the mainstream sports media. But when we - ...wait a minute, Lobring hasn't been fired.
...wait a minute, it's still up. There's a link to it on the Fire's home page.
I have a confession to make. I’m a new Chicago Fire fan, having been hired to oversee communications for the club just six months ago. But according to some folks, I was also a “s***** hire.” The only professional experience (“zero soccer experience”) I have is “promoting a video game” and I do “not belong leading the Communications department.”
Additionally, I also “need to shave.” To be fair, that one is true, but my wife thinks I look weird totally clean shaven. To be fairer, all of the other statements might also be true, but I would like the opportunity to prove how shitty I am first. To be fairest of all, maybe I already have proven it six months into the job.
But I’m more interested in learning what made me a shitty hire on day one? What brought about the warm reception from a vocal few as I was introduced as a new member of the “Fire family?” My best guess is that because I work for an owner who is supposedly “cheap,” “doesn't care,” and only sees the team as a “toy.” Or maybe it’s because I’m joining a front office staff that just “doesn't get it” or only makes “bad decisions.”
A couple of things stand out. First, if you're going to censor a word the first time, try not to spell it out in the next paragraph. Second, this man speaks for the Chicago Fire soccer club. Not, ha ha, do you believe they gave this guy a live microphone. I mean, this person's bosses read this, let it go up, withstood one of the biggest and most justified fan and media ragegasms in the history of the league, and have kept it up for all to read.
Which you should. You might have better luck fathoming it, but it's definitely fascinating. It's not all factually accurate:
While there will always be those who might choose a different route, I'm glad to know that there will be thousands of others that will have my back.
If thousands of people have Lobring's back on this, they have done so very, very quietly. Lobring must have been the one who suggested acquiring Mike Magee, because otherwise things like this would be an automatic, pardon the expression, fire:
It has been shared with me that the Club’s charter (co-written by our owner and Section 8 leadership) makes it clear that all who enter Toyota Park are to be “respectful of all other supporters, participants, match officials, entertainers, athletes, stadium personnel, staff members and stadium property.” Are to “behave in a responsible manner and not interfere in other supporters’ enjoyment of the match.” And are “to refrain from using foul, sexist, racial, or offensive language including any type of obscene gesture.”
In the aftermath of that game, we/I have heard from many longstanding supporters who were afraid, fearful, disgusted with certain attendees behavior. Our role as a club is to draw a line and protect the sanctity and honor of the organization and all its supporters.
Our integrity within this Club actually matters to us. For me personally and others on the staff, this is our livelihood. Failure isn't an option. Why would we choose to work together on building this Club with anyone who takes a stand that prevents progress, espouses negativity and is just downright not truthful, inhibiting us from doing our jobs to the best of our ability? Or worse, make attending a game for a supporter a fearful experience?
If attending a Fire game is a fearful experience, the communications director should be talking, in clear and detailed prose, about the steps the club is taking so that going forward it will no longer be a fearful experience. Among those steps should not include whining about why someone would want to do such a thing.
I mean, there are lots of other softballs here that have been put into orbit by outraged supporters and media types. I particular enjoy the idea that the Chicago Fire has "sanctity," and the constant capitalization of "Club" should inspire a lot of speculation on the team's internal culture.
But I just can't get by a team official telling the world that his games are potentially dangerous to attend. That's a pretty big "oh by the way" in an editorial that seemed mostly focused on criticism of the front office staff.
Pedro Gomes asked Lobring a fantastic question on Twitter, and Lobring responded in a way that, well, pretty much gave the game away:
But the message of sticking up for the fans & the culture we believe is worth disseminating to the larger base.
In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say that the Fire really is more concerned about criticism than danger to fans. In fact, I'd almost say that the Fire consider criticism in and of itself to be dangerous. That's just not a really super healthy and intelligent way to run a business. Or a club. Or a family.