BREAKING UPDATE, CLARIFICATION AND APOLOGY - HEY, I'M GETTING REALLY GOOD AT WRITING RETRACTIONS, AREN'T I? GOD DAMN IT
So. If you've just joined us - in the words of Will Smith, welcome to Earth. Once upon a time there was a supporters group called the American Outlaws. There were some incidents of sexism and racism, and journalist Noah Davis asked AO rep Dan Wiersema some questions. Davis then wrote down this:
I think anytime you get around a very patriotic crowd, it’s going to end up that way,” said Dan Wiersema, who has functioned as AO’s director of communications since the spring of 2014. ....There’s also the issue of inclusion. “I don’t think we’re in a position as soccer fans to exclude anyone,” Wiersema said.
Except, Wiersema's response was not an answer to any question about racism or sexism. It was based on a completely different conversation.
Wiersema, who you may or may not know from the Free Beer Movement website, had already wrestled a retraction on an earlier version of Davis' article. He read the blog post below - which had a little sneering fun at his expense, of course - and said Noah Davis "approached on a different topic, and that I why my comments seem disconnected from the topic. I feel very misrepresented. I've talked to the editor and they're okay with his tactics."
So I wrote to Noah Davis and said, "I felt the 'We're not in a position to exclude anyone' quote was incredibly damning in the context of the article. What question did you ask him to get that response?"
Davis seemed surprised that I, or Wiersema, would think that his quote was unflattering. "That’s not how I read that quote, nor is it how my editors read that quote, nor was it my intention for that quote to be read in that manner. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree." He did not tell me what questions he asked, though.
Wiersema recalls the interview with Davis touching on the negative stereotype of the American Outlaws - fraternicus broii , that sort of thing - but neglected to "ask or comment about even broad ideas of racism, sexism, discrimination."
Well, if Davis won't correct the record, I might as well. I'm very, very sorry for my part in blackening Dan Wiersema's name, and I hope he, and you, will accept my sincere apology.
We're used to people saying "I was misquoted" or "I was taken out of context" when they are trying to scrape off the mud, the blood, and the beer. But I made a terrible inference based on exactly that sort of thing.
Look - let's say I tell you "Beer battered, deep fried until golden brown, and served with freshly-made tartar sauce and steak fries on the side." It makes a big difference whether your question was "How do you like fish and chips?" or "Have you seen my dachshund?"
Why am I making such a big deal about this, and why did I jump all over this topic to begin with?
Well, I'm thinking about three letters. Not U-S-A. S-A-E.
Here's a little scenario for you all. Let's say at some point in the future, one of our fellow travelers decides to express distaste for the national team representing the nation of Mexico towards one or more of their fans in terms referencing their ethnic or ancestral background in less than entirely positive ways.
Now, I don't mean to sound flashy or nothin', but I got this nifty phone. It can play music, it can find things on a map, it can play games, and, oh yeah, it can both record and distribute taped video footage.
I think you can all see where I'm going with this. Someday, something like this is going to be taped, and three seconds later it'll be worldwide news. Go back and look at what SAE in OU brought into their lives this week, and ask yourself if you're remotely ready for that particular chicken to come home asking to crash on the couch. Because, brother, it's gonna be feces from a firehose.
It won't have to be a paid-up member of AO. It won't even have to be anyone who's ever been to a game before. That bro, or sis, is going to reap the whirlwind - and we're going to be twisting right alongside. Unless you don't feel like wearing your US gear in public any time soon.
"But that guy doesn't represent all of us!" we'll say. And we'll be absolutely right. And you know what we're going to look like, us being absolutely right? Find a Chelsea fan and ask, assuming he lets you on the train.
But that's not the real calamity scenario, dear friends. Let's pretend FIFA has come into some heat for some wacky reason, like giving the World Cup to nations with serious-ass racism, sexism, and homophobia problems. And let's say there have been some real, tangible, obvious and ugly cultural problems in some places that only an idiot would ignore. Let's say further that the USSF has taken on FIFA publicly about the latter's ugly corruption and inability to police any of these rotten apples.
Now, let's pretend someone has filmed American fans racially abusing opposing fans or players. Thereby putting a big god-damned hammer in FIFA's hands.
You up for a closed-door qualifier? Maybe have the home Mexico Hex match at a neutral site, like San Salvador or Dallas?
Without getting too Nixonian on you guys, that's a tape that can bring American soccer to an ugly, screeching halt.
Unless someone is on that tape telling Person A to put a damn sock in it, of course.
So, I was going to grace you all with my only slightly-delayed 2015 MLS preview...and then Noah Davis decided to take the Enola Gay up for a quick spin over the American soccer world.
This isn't the first time the American Outlaws have come in for some criticism. According to Wikipedia:
American Outlaws opened to dismal box office and mostly negative reviews. Many critics cited a poor sense of time and place as a major cause of the film's problems. Others just dismissed the film as another Young Guns ripoff.
I don't think I'll be able to sum this up briefly. So I'll let Kayla Knapp do it on Twitter.
Thanks, Kayla! Now I don't need to write a tedious downer smarmy blog post about how much better I am than AO!
OF COURSE I'm going to anyway. You seriously thought otherwise? I'd get that bruise you got falling off the tomato truck looked at, if I were you.
There are plenty of issues with Davis' article, apart from the fish blood and bullet residue ruining a perfectly good barrel. Noah spent the first one, two, three - eight paragraphs of the story on a story of sexual harassment at a watch party. Come to read afterwards:
When Noah Davis contacted me and said the article was practically written, but requested a comment, I thought this was a way I could live with myself again. He assured me his message was not to tear AO down, but to talk about the issues that were weakening this growing organization in the hopes that the subsequent dialog would build a better soccer culture.
Emboldened part is mine. I'm a little touchy when it comes to the subject of the gap between what a reporter says has been written and what's on the page, fine. But the story began with one, two, three, eight paragraphs on Tanya Keith's story alone. There's no way that's appropriate.
Speaking of inappropriate:
But a few fans of the visiting side were able to get tickets in the AO section of the stadium. Barajas, who attended the game and sat with some of her friends, was horrified by the abuse she saw, especially the treatment of two Mexican men who had children with them, including a young girl who was three or four years old. “Some AO members started yelling, telling them to get out of our section. There were people who were abusing these two men,” she said. “These guys started shouting, ‘Get the fuck out of our section! Fuck Mexico! Beaners! Spics!’” Eventually, an usher came and moved the men and their children. “I have no problem hating the Mexico team,” Barajas continues. “Hate them all you want, but you don’t need to insult the fans.”
This one's tricky. I don't want to blame the victims for how they were dressed here. I wore US colors in a Mexico cheering section once - well, considering the entire Los Angeles Coliseum as the Mexico cheering section. And considering a blue disposable plastic raincoat as US colors. I knew what I was in for, you see, as this family apparently did not.
And getting yelled at...well, that by itself is not going to get me to cry anything more than a creek, let alone a river. Obviously, It's the last two words that make it racial and ethnic, though, and therefore completely unacceptable. Security should have identified and banned the ones making racial remarks. Security should also identify and ban fans who throw trash at other fans, and someone should have a long, long discussion about the wisdom and appropriateness of bringing children into said crossfire.
Ideally, other AO fans should have turned on the ones who crossed the line, and hopefully in the future this starts to happen as well.
Blaming AO for this, though, is reaching too far. Forget the likely outcome of a US fan pulling the same stunt in Mexico for a minute. What if Mexico fan and his family were Chargers fan and his family, and he wanted to sit in the Black Hole? We could get rid of the American Outlaws tomorrow - that still wouldn't protect four year old girls from drunk fans.
AO is anything but an aberration when it comes to soccer, sports, society, all those groovy things. As Knapp points out, these are larger issues that AO didn't cause.
Naturally, the American Outlaws had a response. And naturally, it involved taking out a Desert Eagle, painting concentric circles on their feet, and blasting away.
“I think anytime you get around a very patriotic crowd, it’s going to end up that way,” said Dan Wiersema, who has functioned as AO’s director of communications since the spring of 2014. ....There’s also the issue of inclusion. “I don’t think we’re in a position as soccer fans to exclude anyone,” Wiersema said.
Except for women, and fans of Mexican descent, I guess. This isn't just a semantic juggle about what "tolerance" and "inclusiveness" means. It's a very straightforward issue. If you don't exclude the sort of people who grope and/or abuse their fellow fans, then you're excluding a lot more people than you think.
Equally naturally, the American Outlaws have responded to Davis' article by hiding behind their stated code of conduct...oh, by the way, the article was inaccurate.
As soon as we started talking, he brought up Tanya Keith, a woman I had met with several times. I basically refuted the claims made by Keith and told him that Tanya was a source of constant bickering if ideas were not her own, even amongst AO Chapter Leadership consensus.
Here's a life tip. When claiming to a larger audience that you basically refuted someone's highly charged claims? Might want to go ahead and basically refute those claims. Sure, it takes more time, but I find it's worth the effort, credibility-wise.
....actually, Hernandez does make a pretty good point later in the post. If the American Outlaws were that sexist, why would they move their viewing party away from, and I didn't know this term existed outside "Dexter," a "breastaurant"?
....although why have a watch party there to begin with. The sweater keeps knitting, and knitting....
Sam's Army was a groundbreaking group with a wonderful logo, and it curled up into a ball of trademark protection and malignant neglect. American Outlaws, in comparison, has been much more proactively synergistic with the dynamic of America's growing soccer market. And the reason we have such things is because of American soccer's growing pains, not AO.
Eventually, the USSF will make, or hope to make, its official supporters group the main/only way to get tickets to a specifically US section. And then farther down the line, unofficial supporters groups like this probably won't exist.
Quick - what's the name of England's main supporter group? Scotland has the Tartan Army, which is run and organized by nobody. (There IS a tartanarmy.net, which to my unpracticed eye looks like the work of an enterprising capitalist. If there's one thing the world was crying out for, it's GoDaddy in a kilt.) Pancho Villa's Army has no equivalent south of the border - it wouldn't make sense.
Eventually, the idea is to have the American supporters section be, well, America. The growing pains aren't American Outlaws being a bronucopia. The growing pains are that we still need a dedicated supporters group at all.
The American Outlaws aren't going to fight racism and sexism. It's up to you and me. And, frankly, I'm not sure how strong I can be on this. This is a boring, pitiful story, but I think I need to tell it for full disclosure.
In January 2010, I heard a racist yell out "Mow my lawn!" towards a Honduras fan at the Home Depot Center. I didn't see the person who said it, but I could have yelled out something. I was more concerned about getting my family back to the car, and then Posting About It On The Internet. I chose convenience and comfort over what was right.
Hopefully that particular fan was murdered on the way home. But anyone in the crowd overhearing that wasn't, and isn't, going to be impressed by disapproval after the fact. I as a fan allowed someone to hide behind me, and the American flag, in order to vent their racism.
Was it really a member of AO who yelled that? Of course not. That would have violated their code of conduct. No true Scotsman puts sugar on their oatmeal, after all.
If it happens again, I'll know what to do - or that's what I tell myself. And yeah, we should have a blanket policy of ejecting and banning the people who do this - what are we paying security dudes minimum wage for, anyway?
I wasn't willing to confront it - and now I get to be associated with it. Hell, I helped create it. It's up to you guys to fight it. Good luck, and I'm sorry.