So the MLS Players Union, unlike Philadelphia Union, has made a strong start to 2017.
Hey, remember solidarity payments? Remember training compensation payments? Remember when we were supposed to do things FIFA did because FIFA is any kind of guide or role model? Sure you do!
When we last left this story, youth academies had decided to protest the USSF garnishing their hard-earned solidarity and training payments by…suing the players in question, and the MLS Players Union. At the end of March, the lawsuit was dismissed on account of its extreme stupidity, and MLS Players Union Executive Director Bob Foose took a well-earned victory lap:
“We have said consistently that training compensation and solidarity payments are bad for players, and would treat players differently than employees in any other industry, including sports. For example, it’s absurd to think that a business school could demand a fee from a company that hired one of its students. Yet, that’s the kind of payments the youth clubs seek.
No player should have the market for his services adversely affected by these payments. This is not to say that players and the Players Union don’t believe in and support youth development. We do, but it should not be funded through a tax on randomly selected professional players’ contracts. We have said all along that we do not understand why the youth clubs sued players and their union, and we certainly do not believe that the suit was filed in the appropriate court. We’re very satisfied that the Court has agreed and brought this case to a close by dismissing it in its entirety.”
“This,” “I told you so” and “Boom-shaka-laka” are not helpful contributions I can make to the discussion. So consider those contributions made unhelpfully. This won’t be the last time American soccer will have to deal with, for want of a better term, “ideas” with no basis behind them aside from “That’s how it’s done elsewhere.” So it’s always a relief when this sort of thing is shot down without mercy.
“We want to encourage youth development,” for some reason, is a series of magic syllables that bring critical thinking to a standstill. It doesn’t hold water in the present pay-to-play system, and it won’t hold water as long as amateur soccer is dominated by the NCAA. But it isn’t as if solidarity payments and training compensation date back to antiquity. These were invented after the Bosman ruling, when clubs no longer had control over player movements. Clubs no longer could claim transfer fees for out-of-contract players, and sure, that hit their bottom line. But it was revenue clubs should rightfully never have had in the first place.
You could make at least a lousy case that clubs who put time, cash and effort into training youth players shouldn’t be left high and dry when these ungrateful little punks bolt at the first opportunity for better clubs offering better deals. “How can we recoup our investment, if players are treated like human beings with free will?” goes the complaint, although never in those words.
So quit, is my response. International football is a business that generates over ONE MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. Someone’s going to think it’s worthwhile to train new players. If it’s too difficult for you, no one’s forcing you to stay. Get out of the unrewarding, unfair field of youth development. Try bird-watching. Try tantric massage. Write sitcoms, like David Byrne suggested in “Found a Job” off the “More Songs About Buildings and Food” album. Go back and listen to it, Tina Weymouth’s bass line is AMAZING.
You may be surprised to hear that the MLS Players Union doesn’t just dunk on youth academies. They also act as a union representing Major League Soccer players. One of those players is a Colorado Rapid you may have heard of named Tim Howard.
If you believe the Batman/Dark Knight saying that one either dies a hero or lives long enough to become the villain, then Tim Howard’s watch is at roughly two hours past Heel O’Clock. Howard lost the respect of most of the world outside the monophone US national team fanbase about six years ago. Howard also had to retract an accusation of career sabotage towards Brad Friedel in his 2014 autobiography. And, of course, in the 2014 World Cup, Howard put up one of the legendary performances in the history of the game. So you’re gonna get people with opinions about him.
Or, what might have happened is that a fan yapped at a player and, for once, the player yapped back. I might be over-complicating this.
Anyhow, Tim got himself oaked for three games after informing a fan that he and the fan’s mother shared an act of intimacy. This was the Players Union response.
If you believe the purpose of the union is to defend its members from arbitrary punishment, then this statement failed. Howard clearly transgressed, and his suspension stands.
The fan almost certainly transgressed the Code of Conduct referred to. (It's here, if you're wondering.) I just wonder why that’s brought up. It’s interesting that the union would go out of their way to make trouble for teams and fans here, or at least one team and one fan.
It might be simply to prove that Howard was provoked. But no one who has spent any amount of time watching live sports would have doubted that. I’m not sure where the Players Union is going with its tu quoque. The statement seems to, but does not, call for increased security. The statement seems to, but does not, call for a ban on obscene and abusive language from fans. The statement calls for a clear message, but leaves the nature of that message up to the league.
I’m almost certainly reading too much into the statement, but the statement begs questions like German shepherds beg for those yummy bacon things whose name escapes me. Is verbal abuse of individual players truly a league-wide issue? Does MLSPU intend to collectively bargain fan sanctions the next time around? Is increased enforcement against fan misbehavior important enough to sacrifice tangible benefits in negotiations? Is the Players Union suggesting a labor stoppage if fans make the players’ workplace too hostile?
Or is there nothing behind this statement behind disingenuous scolding?
I’m fine with the fan being suspended for three games, too. Or even for the season. Or even forever. I ain’t his dad, I don’t care what happens to him. But this seems like this should be offsetting penalties, to borrow an NFL term.
Extenuating factors go both ways. Look, let’s say I sideswipe a guy. And instead of calling his insurance company, he comes at me with a tire iron. “At least I don’t have to pay for this guy’s paint job,” I would think before losing consciousness.
There is one aspect of this incident that has not been addressed. As of this writing, there has been no investigation of whether Howard actually had made love to that fan’s mother. I think this is a shame. I believe the Zenger defense should apply to fan abuse.