The gay4soccer Opinion on the Partnership between Major League Soccer and the Boy Scouts of America (updated 1.20.12)
Let’s get one thing (proverbially) straight: we here at gay4soccer are all in favor of the continued growth of our beloved American league. But MLS’ latest partnership gave us pause and pushed us to consider whether or not we want that success at any and all costs.
On Sunday evening, MLS published a press release announcing a new collaborative partnership with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Scouts, through this deal, will have special access to MLS events, players and staff. MLS will conduct “Scout Nights”, the aim of which is to drive recruitment and retention of Scouts. And MLS players and staff will be invited to local troops to conduct conversations on fitness and leadership.
On its surface, this sounds like only good things – two nationally recognized brands hitching up to help each other out. Kids learning about fitness from professional athletes and MLS getting some extra butts in the seats (don’t forget – it’s not just the kids, it’s the parents and Scoutmasters, too).
But let us recall the stated policy of BSA – no atheists and no gays allowed. Period. They even succeeded in defending this position at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
So then, is it really such a great deal for our rapidly-expanding professional league to ally itself with an organization that openly espouses bigotry and intolerance?
“If it’s done carefully and with consideration to the sensitivities of gay fans, this could be a positive relationship,” said Chris, gay4soccer’s editor and Philadelphia Union writer. “But the press release mentioned that memorabilia from MLS will be auctioned with the funds benefiting a Kansas City area chapter. It disturbs me greatly that money raised by the league I love could go to directly benefit a troop that closely follows the BSA’s policy of homophobia.”
Don’t get us wrong – none of us at gay4soccer believe for a second that BSA’s goals are to teach homophobia. We just question whether it’s in MLS’ best interests to align itself with a group that would refuse potential members based on sexual orientation.
“I have major concerns about BSA’s anti-gay and anti-atheist stances, and any time an organization forges an alliance with groups like BSA, it gives me pause,” said Josh, one of gay4soccer’s Seattle Sounders writers. “I feel like it’s a wait-and-see situation.”
And that sums up the general view of gay4soccer’s writers – while we’re not comfortable with MLS getting into bed with BSA, neither are we comfortable with roundly rejecting the partnership as a move to promote bigotry. We’re going to watch the partnership, watch where the money goes, and see if there’s reason to object.
“I believe the recent partnership between MLS and BSA will further the former organization’s goals of exposure and community involvement and the latter’s mission in encouraging good character, strength and health in their young men,” said Tommy, gay4soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy writer. “But their culture of homophobia and segregation not only taints an otherwise sterling reputation for the organization but runs afoul of the policies of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, of which US Soccer – and by extension, MLS – is a member. I am disappointed all the same that MLS did not choose to align themselves with a more inclusive top-tier national youth organization.”
Therein lies our suggestion to MLS: consider adding other, more inclusive organizations to your partnership roster. Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Girl Scouts of America, and Campfire USA are all welcoming groups that would make fine additions to MLS’ charitable and philanthropic arm. MLS should also reach out to gay rights-specific groups as the NBA has done in their partnership with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and we will look to MLS to encourage clubs to hold “Equality Nights” – such as the one Chivas USA held last year – as strongly as they encourage “Scout Nights.”
BSA has some noble goals. But MLS can’t allow the taint of BSA’s homophobic policies to stain its own reputation. MLS needs to carefully oversee the reception of this partnership and consider diluting the potential poison with other more tolerant organizations.
Adam, Chris, Grant, Josh, Kevin, Teddy, and Tommy
the gay4soccer team
(Update 1.20.12) We reached out to MLS staff for their response, and the reply we received was: “We’re going to politely refrain from commenting at this time.” We let them know we’d like the dialog to continue, and would still like to share our thoughts on more gay-positive partnerships into which MLS could enter while handling the Boy Scouts partnership with sensitivity to those who have concerns.
You can take our poll on the MLS/BSA issue here.