This week, the community outreach branch of Major League Soccer (MLS), known as MLS W.O.R.K.S., launched a new campaign entitled “Don’t Cross The Line”, asking players and fans alike to take a pledge to stomp out discrimination on the field and sidelines. American soccer superstars Kyle Beckermann and Landon Donovan, alongside Canadian Dwayne De Rosario, are featured in the latest campaign video where players draw a line on screen where supposedly bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia come to a halt and where their presence is not welcomed.
Traditionally in the soccer world, discrimination has always been viewed as an issue in European soccer given the more homogenous populations of those nations. Seldom does it cross the minds of fans that the diverse population and following of MLS supporters in the United States and Canada could foster such discrimination. However, with recent incidents by players and fans alike, the attention is needed for the organization to step up and speak out again discriminatory behavior. Just this past month during the Women’s Olympic soccer final again Japan, American fans went crazy over the team’s victory and took to social media upon defeating Japan in a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final. However, the numerous comments relating to ‘revenge for Pearl Harbor’ and bigoted comments towards Asians in general, unfortunately overshadowed the moment for many. In March, Colin Clark of the Houston Dynamo was cited for calling a ball boy a homophobic slur for rolling the ball too him instead of throwing it. Finally, Miguel Montano of the Montreal Impact filed a complaint against the Montreal Metro (STM) for an attendant who refused to sell a ticket to him because he could not speak in French, even though STM staff are required to be bilingual in order to work for the system. Montano took to twitter to denounce the incident, but later had to backtrack and say that while he was upset, Montreal was not a racist city.
While these incidents have been few and far between, and larger instances almost unheard of in the history of American and MLS soccer, the bigger issue may be pointed towards the broader CONCACAF region as the MLS continues to expand its international scope with tournaments and leagues featuring club teams from many North and Central American nations competing against each other, similar to the Champions League format. For players and traveling fans visiting nations such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, encountering racist chanting or other displays of bigotry, such as fans making gorilla noises or throwing bananas on the field in reference to a black player, are far too common occurrences.
MLS is to be applauded for stepping up and letting fans and players know what is acceptable behavior. We hope that by acknowledging the issues that have arisen and using this campaign to call awareness to the problems at hand, that MLS will serve as an example for other leagues around the world to stop discriminatory behavior among fans and players.
To take the pledge, click here.