Chivas USA Faces Media Mess After HBO’s “Real Sports” Reports Discrimination Allegations

This has not been a great week for Chivas USA, the MLS team from Los Angeles. HBO “Real Sports” explored the accusations of racial discrimination lawsuit from two former coaches. The suit alleges that the coaches were dismissed because they were not Latino and they couldn’t speak Spanish. According to the LA Times, the two coaches claimed that “they were fired earlier this year ‘because they were neither Mexican nor Latino.'”

Chivas USA Starting Lineup

The story adds:

According to the complaint, shortly after Mexican businessman Jorge Vergara and wife, Angelica Fuentes, assumed sole ownership of the Major League Soccer team last fall, Vergara told his staff that employees who did not speak Spanish would be fired. Shortly after that Jose David, the team’s new president and chief business officer, asked Chronopoulos to compile lists of Academy players and coaches who were Mexican or Mexican American and those that weren’t. Weeks later, the lawsuit claims, David asked them to collect more detailed ethnic and national origin data on Academy players and their parents.

Both coaches subsequently filed written complaints of discrimination and harassment to Cynthia Craig, the team’s human resources manager who, the coaches say, did not follow through on a promise to investigate. Instead, David met with the coaches and, the lawsuit alleges, told them ownership was taking the team back to “its Mexican roots” and that neither coach would be part of that effort.

Meanwhile, a former Chivas USA coach is defending the club, saying that the HBO story was inaccurate. This is what José Luis Sánchez Solá told ESPN, according to a Spanish-language outlet (the translation is ours):

What [the plaintiffs] are doing now is out of context, so that if you do not speak Spanish you can not be here, well, it’s a matter for the lawyers, is to take something that is not the crux of the matter.

According to the report in Spanish, Sánchez Solá also made mention of Major League Soccer’s policy:

Even on the pitch, the league makes the rules that you can have 10 foreigners, and those foreigners can be 10 Mexicans, 10 Argentines or whatever, but you have to supplement your roster of 26 with Americans or Mexican Americans, so that there is also diversity.

MLS’ current policy is described on its website:

Domestic/International:

In 2012, a total of 152 international slots are divided among the 19 clubs. Each club began with eight international slots, which are tradable. There is no limit on the number of international slots on each club’s roster.

  • The remaining roster slots must belong to domestic players. For clubs based in the United States, a domestic player is either a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident (green card holder) or the holder of other special status (e.g., refugee or asylum status).

The three MLS clubs based in Canada – Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC – began with eight international slots, but their domestic slots may be filled with either Canadian or U.S. domestic players.

  • MLS clubs based in Canada are required to have a minimum of three Canadian domestic players on their rosters.
  • Players with the legal right to work in Canada are considered Canadian domestic players (i.e., Canadian citizen, permanent resident, part of a protected class).     

The 2013 Chivas USA 29-player roster has 19 players born in the USA, although part of the HBO story says that Chivas USA story is trying to follow a “Mexico” policy where the players are either Mexican or Mexican American. The roster also has five players who were born in Mexico, as well as one player from Colombia, one from Ecuador, one from El Salvador, one from Peru, and one from Canada.

So far, MLS has not issued a statement about the HBO report, although Chivas USA has, emphatically stating that they “absolutely reject any form of discrimination and racism.”

Reaction to the story has been a big topic of discussion in the online soccer community, as the following Storify from The Stream reports.

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