Skip to content

About Major League Soccer Players Union’s curious statement on ‘Ball Boy-gate’

May 15, 2013, 6:50 PM EDT

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 3.48.17 PM

Boy, did the Major League Soccer Players Union get this one wrong. Instead of coming out in defense of Mario De Luna, Eddie Pope and his staff should have just kept quiet and let Sunday’s backlash boil over. Instead, they may have reignited the small controversy. In the process, a lot of MLS fans will be left to wonder what the Union could have possibly been thinking by issuing a release about Ball Boy-gate.

That kind of skepticism (if not outright befuddlement) was the initial reaction after the union’s Wednesday statement became known, one in which the initial sentiment becomes entirely overwhelmed by the inanity of the greater purpose:

Physical contact between a player and a ball boy should never occur. Rather than focusing exclusively on player punishment, however, the league must eliminate ball boy antics, as the Players Union requested last year. There should be no place in our game for off-field personnel to attempt to impact play on the field.

The failure to address this problem substantially increases the risk of unfortunate incidents like we saw last weekend. The league and our teams must do their part to keep our stadiums safe. We urge the league once again to take action and hold teams accountable for the conduct of their ball boys.

[MORE: Another MLS ball boy incident, this time in Portland]

The MLSPU would be wise to amend the statement, deleting everything after “occur,” because while ball boy “antics” may be a relevant discussion at some point, now is not the time. The ball boy did nothing wrong on Sunday, and even if he did, there are various other ways to deal with the problem:

  • De Luna could have found another of the myriad of balls on the sideline, …
  • He could have appealed to the head official (at which time, he would have learned it was not Chivas USA’s ball) …
  • Said head official could have compensated for the antics by adding extra time to the game, or …
  • A 25-year-old adult could have recognized the bigger picture and not shoved a child half his size over a soccer ball.

The MLSPU is essentially an advocacy organization, and as such, they’re going to protect their members’ rights. When those rights (especially collectively bargained ones) are infringed upon, they act, particularly as it concerns issues in and around the workplace.

So one possible, hasty conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Union, as the players’ bargaining unit, feels physical action against recalcitrant field staff is an acceptable response for its members? Or, if we keep in mind the first sentence of the statement, a physical response – even when it’s against a minor doing no wrong – is something that’s entitled to some level of defense?

And you wonder why lawyers have a bad reputation.

This is an inexplicably narrow-minded statement, one that’s does no good but let one member of the organization’s bargaining unit know his rights are being respected. But again, what are those rights, exactly? And how are those rights impinging on others’, including the greater good of the league?

And the greater good of the Players Union. This kind of blanket defense of an obviously out-of-line player is repugnant. Worse: In issuing a public statement about this, Pope and the Union’s leadership have the default effect of speaking on behalf of the greater body at large. This becomes the union, as a multi-hundred-member group, mitigating De Luna’s behavior.

That’s unless others speak up. It will be interesting to see if anybody does. The issue of a defender drawing a one-game suspension might not be enough to motivate any principled stands, but it will be interesting to hear how players respond if asked about their union’s stance.

Latest Posts
  1. Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Inter Milan (Lineups and Discuss)

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2014 - AS Roma v Manchester United Getty Images

    In team news, van Gaal has decided to go with his fabled 3-5-2.

  2. Instagram Transfer Rumors: Radamel Falcao heading to Real Madrid

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    In a startling revelation, AS has revealed that Radamel Falcao has begun following three Real Madrid players on Instagram.

  3. Report: Southampton set to swap Dani Osvaldo for Inter Milan’s Saphir Taidar

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT

    Norwich City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Big day for headlines coming out of Southampton but this one looks to be quite promising for Saints fans.

  4. Luis Felipe Scolari hired by Gremio for third stint with Brazilian club

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Brazil - 2014 FIFA World Cup Training Camp - Day 1 Getty Images

    Twenty-seven years after his first stint with Gremio, Luis Felipe Scolari is returning to the Brazilian side as its new manager.

  5. WATCH: Bojan Krkic scores first goal for Stoke City in 2-1 defeat to Schalke

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Bojan Krkic AP

    Krkic, who made the $6.7 million move from Barcelona last week, scored a cracker of a first goal for Stoke City.

  6. Report: Carlos Tevez’ stepfather freed by Argentine kidnappers

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

    Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A Getty Images

    Tevez’s family was then phoned and told to deliver a ransom of $5,000 (40,000 pesos).

  7. Southampton chairman claims club will reinvest $165M in this transfer window

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Saints have a new Saints have a new

    “Every penny of that will be up for reinvestment as transfer fees and wages,” Krueger said.

  8. Ronaldinho leaves Atletico Mineiro, could be headed to MLS

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Brazil Atletico Mineiro Ronaldinho AP

    Where, exactly, Ronaldinho’s future ends up is anyone’s guess.

  9. WATCH: Five international, MLS games coming your way on NBC Sports this week

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    ICC and MLS action is in full swing in the USA this week. Watch it all online, here.

  10. New York City FC sign Jacobson from Dallas, linked with Alberto Aquilani

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT

    Montreal Impact v FC Dallas AP

    Jacobson arrives in the Big Apple from Dallas. Will Aquilani join him?

  11. Morgan Schneiderlin slams Southampton after Spurs move is blocked

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Southampton v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    Now Schneiderlin wants out as Saints’ incredible exodus continues to take a turn for the worst.

  12. Barcelona reveal record income levels of $711 million

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

    Despite not winning any silverware last season, Barcelona were big winners off the pitch.

  13. Report: Carlos Tevez’s father kidnapped, held for ransom

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Tevez’s father, Juan Carlos Cabral, is said to have been kidnapped in Buenos Aires and held for ransom.

  14. Southampton insist Rodriguez, Schneiderlin are not for sale

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    350x AP

    Southampton duo are going nowhere, despite being linked with Tottenham switch.

  15. Liverpool complete $17 million signing of Belgian striker Divock Origi

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    Source: Liverpool FC Source: Liverpool FC

    Liverpool sign talented Belgian teenager, will loan him back to Lille this season.

  16. Despite calling African players “banana eaters”, Tavecchio still set to lead Italian FA

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    Italy Federation Racism AP

    Even after calling African players “banana eaters” this man is set lead the Italian FA.

  17. Enner Valencia granted work permit, completes $20 million West Ham move

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Source: West Ham United Source: West Ham United

    Valencia finally signs on, as Hammers splash the cash in search of goals.

  18. Miami’s MLS future continues to hinge on downtown stadium deal

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Miami's Arquietectonica and 360 Architecture Miami's Arquietectonica and 360 Architecture

    Garber: “MLS will not expand to Miami unless we have a downtown site for the stadium.”