We try and keep this blog topical but since it is a forum for me to post something long form about an important personal matter and rumors that have been circulating virtually unchecked on social media for days now, I am going to take that liberty.
The last several days rumors have circulated on social media regarding a number of matters related to the NASL and my reporting of the league’s relationship with Traffic Sports USA, a Miami-based entity who has been at the center of the Department of Justice probe into FIFA. My role as a reporter and soccer analyst has from the view of some fans come into conflict with my previous employment at the NASL allegedly clouding my judgement and prompting me to break rules and perhaps laws to hurt the league. These are patently absurd allegations but given the timeline of external events in the last week, it is no surprise they surfaced at this time.
A few events created the context for this week’s events. First was the interview given by New York Cosmos owner Seamus O’Brien to The Guardian. Second was the sacking on Friday of two men I hold in the highest regard and consider personal friends by the Tampa Bay Rowdies – Farrukh Quraishi and Thomas Rongen. These events and my reaction to them precipitated a storm of rumor, innuendo, nastiness and false allegations that were aired on social media specially Reddit and Twitter.
Let me address the allegations that have been made:
- I had no documents in my possession when I left the NASL over two years ago that indicated ownership shares of the league and voting powers of Board of Governors members. The members of the press that obtained such documents did not do so from me. My subsequent reporting and analysis on the matter using my personal knowledge of players was guided largely by the reporting on these documents by other media.
- The claims that somehow I obtained another set of documents sealed in a court case involving NASL and Oklahoma City FC in June of 2015 are false. In fact the league knows this is the case and it is unfortunate that some fans of the league have been led to believe otherwise. The documents were sealed a few days after I obtained them. From that point forward I have not made mention of the contents of these documents. This matter is closed. The contents of those documents are NOT open for discussion any longer as they have been sealed.
Some NASL fans have created an “us against them” campaign regarding MLS and other soccer entities in the United States. I have been urged by multiple people on social media to “pick a side” in the last few weeks. I have my side, it is the side of soccer’s growth in this country and especially in this state which involves multiple leagues and entities at all levels of the game.
I must say I am as die-hard a proponent of NASL as it was originally conceived as anyone around. For years, North America suffered without a viable second division to develop players, markets, fans, supports groups and a soccer culture. Below MLS was an uneven structure of D2 and D3. I am proud to have been part of the NASL team that helped create the first truly professional D2 league in my opinion that this country has had. I continue to watch and cover NASL in this context and looking for the league to grow its success.
But I must add that I support soccer and don’t want another soccer war in this country. In fact we cannot afford one. The rhetoric coming from some NASL fans, Promotion/Relegation advocates and a handful of NASL owners regarding Major League Soccer is counterproductive IMO toward growing the game and ensuring NASL’s long-term stability. That is my view and it has been formed from being in and around this game in the United States for a long time. Does this mean I agree with the way MLS is structured via single-entity and some of the other hokey rules it employs that are dramatically different than other first divisions around the globe? No, it doesn’t but I am grounded in reality and want this game to succeed in this country.
Propaganda from both leagues has been disturbing to me as has the lack transparency both leagues employ on multiple matters, most recently NASL regarding Traffic Sports. Some fans of both leagues have engaged in constant twitter battles similar to that of political party staff here in Florida, except with far more voices. The scripts and talking points seem clear and consistent. Both sides have henchmen on Twitter and often I am caught in the crossfire as are other writers and people who simply want to promote the sport.
I applaud those fans especially members of Flight 19, Section 904 and Ralph’s Mob here in Florida that have demonstrated an ability to think for themselves and not be force fed propaganda from NASL or the teams they support. Flight 19 has been especially courageous in articulating their views which I often disagree with. Still I give them full marks for independence I applaud the Ruckus and Iron Lion Firm in Orlando for taking similar views vis a vis MLS and the Orlando City organization.
But all too often we see soccer fans turn into programmed parrots and attack dogs. It’s a symptom of our society with the 24 hour news cycle and cable news channels that polarize people. What we’ve observed in politics through the years has hit the world of American soccer and hence the theory of another soccer war beginning. Fans of both NASL and MLS who have put the league’s interests above all else, often hide behind an ideology or a set of professed values to justify their behavior and personal attacks on me and people like me. It’s a terrible cesspool of negativity and I hope the majority of fans that support either NASL or MLS can rise above it.
Thank you for your indulgence.