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MLS is absolutely doing the right thing with its homophobia policy

Nov 15, 2012, 4:22 PM EDT

MLS Sounders Real Salt Lake Soccer AP

Over at Grantland, Caleb Hannan takes a good, long look at MLS and its strong crackdown on homophobia.

The writer’s basic takeaway: MLS’s audience is younger than other sports leagues, making them more intolerant of anti-gay slurs, racism, and other societal ugliness. As a result, suspending players like Marc Burch and Colin Clark is both the right thing to do and good business.

That logic seems to make sense to me, but I’m not sure it goes far enough. By cracking down hard on players who use anti-gay slurs, Commissioner Don Garber is taking a stand that other league commissioners won’t, or at least haven’t, taken. This is perhaps a cynical read, but it gives MLS an advantage over American leagues. It’s a policy they can be proud of, but also one that is forward-thinking and better than what other, more established leagues currently have. (In some ways, it reminds me a little of MLS advocating for the use of goalline technology, albeit in a very different way.)

I’m not saying Garber and the other decisionmakers took this into account when deciding what to do about Clarke, whose suspension set the precedent. They made the right call there, and they should be proud they are sticking to it. All I’m saying is that MLS is a league that needs press and it’s nice it worked out this way. As Hannan writes, the policy is “both good for business and good for the game.”

  1. geojock - Nov 15, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    I agree. MLS is during the right thing. We have to get the message out that these words are not acceptable. I will say that as fans we need to accept the punishment and not crucify these players. Many, if not most, have no I idea of the offensive nature of the F word. Having been in sports locker rooms at several different levels, I know that this word is thrown around quite casually so it’s not a surprise when it slips out on the field. Many of these athletics are just truly naive and not homophobes.

  2. schlom - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:19 AM

    I’m not really sure I agree with this. Who judges what is offensive? Certain words may have more meaning than others. If one player calls another a “motherf***er” some may shrug it off while someone whose mother may have been raped and killed might find it extremely offensive, much more offensive than fag**t. And what if you aren’t a protected minorty? Are there certain words you can say to a white player than you couldn’t say to a Hispanic or black player? This just seems like it will lead to a slippery slope of random punishments.

  3. mvktr2 - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:11 AM

    Let me be clear, the day such words become a hate crime with legal ramifications is the day I start using them. I am NOT for any restrictions upon free speech aside from obvious threats which carry the weight of coercion/threatened violence. Having said that I fully support MLS in their stance. Their job is to protect their brand however they see fit. As a private company they have every right to set whatever policy they deem necessary and all employees would have to agree to those guidelines. If MLS wanted to ban all people associated with the league from saying soccer, lemonade, or light-beer I’d agree with that also, it’s their prerogative. Tolerance is THE key characteristic of a free society. In that way we should all tolerate whatever comes our way that isn’t a direct physical threat, that just happens to include tolerating restrictions on certain actions when in someone else’s employ. If Burch or Clarke wanted to open up anti-gay themed stores as private businessmen I’d fully support their right to do so, I just wouldn’t be shopping there.

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