Last week Major League Soccer and it’s charitable arm MLS Works released the 2014 edition of their “Don’t Cross the Line” PSA video.
It’s…nice. It’s the usual “Don’t Cross the Line” message delivered by league superstars along with fans, which is new for this year.
But it also seems a bit watered down. It seems unspecific. It delivers the league tag line and a lot of feel-good buzz words but it doesn’t call out what “Don’t Cross the Line” means as it has in prior years. Here’s what I mean with language from past years.
2012: “No bullying. No racism. No sexism. No homophobia. No excuses. No exceptions.”
2013: “We’re part of a global community with every age, race, gender, sexuality, or ability. Everyone is welcome. We draw the line at discrimination or harassment of any kind, on and off the field.”
In 2014, that overt anti-harassment message is missing. Does the league find it unnecessary because things are improving? Does the league just think that “Don’t Cross the Line” is so much a part of the culture that defining it further is unnecessary?
But this is a league that just ramped up anti-discrimination and anti-harassment efforts amongst its teams and staff. Posters in locker rooms across the continent tell players, “MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER HAS A ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY FOR HARASSMENT OR DISCRIMINATION OF ANY KIND.” So why isn’t that zero-tolerance message a focus of a video that fans see on television, online, and in stadiums?
This is a real missed opportunity for Major League Soccer. With a young, hip fan base they could really be staking a claim as the most pro-LGBT league in the nation. But just when you think they’re about to do something really ground breaking, they whiff. Individual teams are doing amazing things, but it often seems like the league is just an inch wide of goal, and that’s a shame.
All in all, Major League Soccer, you’ve done good on this newest “Don’t Cross the Line” video. But you’ve also done better.
A weekly roundup of what LGBT soccer players were up to over the weekend. What other sport does that? So with more action on the field and a big movie festival event, here we go!
- Lori Lindsey made her 2014 debut for the Washington Spirit, who also chalked up their first win of 2014, defeating Kansas City FC 3-1. Lindsey started the match and was subbed out at the half.
- Meleana Shim was in the starting lineup and Sarah Huffman was a second-half substitute as the Portland Thorns drew Sky Blue FC 1-1 on the road.
- Robbie Rogers played 80 minutes for the LA Galaxy II as they beat crosstown rivals the Orange County Blues 3-1. Josh Guesman at Corner of the Galaxy has some great quotes from Rogers on how he felt during the battle of a match and poses the question, “Is Robbie Rogers already ready for a return to the senior team?“
- A goal from Joanna Lohman wasn’t enough for the Boston Breakers, who fell 3-2 to the Houston Dash, who earned their first win of their inaugural season. Lianne Sanderson played a full 90 minutes for the Breakers.
- Anton Hysen’s Myrtle Beach Mutiny unveiled a new logo and website at a player meet and greet with their fans.
- The soccer documentary Next Goal Wins about Thomas Rongen coaching the American Samoa Football Team made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. One of the players in the film is Jaiyah Saelua, considered to be the first transgender person to compete in FIFA World Cup Qualifying, but she identifies herself as fa’afafine, considered a third gender in Samoan culture. Rongen shared this great photo with Saelua taken on the way to the event:
— Thomas Rongen (@ThomasRongen) April 20, 2014
With NWSL season two kicking off, the Myrtle Beach Mutiny beginning preseason action and Robbie Rogers back on the pitch, it’s a good time to start a review of what our favorite out LGBT soccer players have been up to.
- It was the inaugural match for the Houston Dash, but they were defeated by the Portland Thorns 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium. Both Meleana Shim and Sarah Huffman appeared as substitutes in the match.
- Abby Wambach was out of the Western New York Flash’s match against the Washington Spirit as she seeks treatment for a head injury suffered during the USWNT’s midweek match against China.
- Lianne Sanderson wore the captain’s armband for the Boston Breakers and Joanna Lohman had a strike hit the crossbar, but their team’s efforts weren’t enough to defeat the Washington Reign FC, who clinched a 3-0 shutout with a goal from Megan Rapinoe.
- On loan to the LA Galaxy II, Robbie Rogers played 40 minutes in the team’s loss to Sacramento Republic FC. His first competitive action this year, he became the first out man to play in USL Pro.
- Anton Hysen and NPSL’s Myrtle Beach Mutiny started preseason action against Francis Marion University, winning 2-1. Here’s him looking good in uniform from his Instagram feed:
The New York Ramblers have announced that NYCFC have signed on as official sponsors of this weekend’s NY Indoor Classic soccer tournament. The Ramblers were founded as the world’s first organized openly-gay soccer club in 1980.
From the Ramblers’ Facebook post announcing the sponsorship:
We are excited about NYC FC’s progressive stance on tolerance in American Soccer, so please rally support for NYC FC as proud supporters of the LGBT soccer community.
The Indoor Classic attracts teams from not only the New York metro area, but also the whole North American gay soccer community. Teams will be representing Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco, Toronto, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and West Hollywood.
It’s great to see NYCFC deliberately including the city’s LGBT community as they gear up for their inaugural 2015 season.
You can watch this weekend’s tournament action at the CCE Sports Network online.
Colorado Rapids midfielder and 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers was announced as an ambassador in the Athlete Ally program yesterday.
Joining numerous other players in Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League, Powers said in the Athlete Ally statement:
…I think sports have always provided a powerful platform from which social issues can be supported and examples can be set. So supporting LGBT equality in sport is important because it can successfully affect social change.
But lest that be his only contribution to the gay community yesterday, Powers was also part of the Rapids’ April Fools Day fun, posing in some retro soccer kits that featured fringe and some very short shorts. The uniforms are a throwback to the Colorado Caribous of the NASL who spend one year in Denver before being moved to Atlanta by an ownership group including Ted Turner.
Enough of the April Fools teasing Colorado; we want to see Dillon Powers sporting this look on the pitch!
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) April 1, 2014
Bravo, Dillon Powers, on both accounts!
Major League Soccer will be ramping up workplace anti-discrimination and anti-harassment efforts this year according to the New York Attorney General and reported by the Huffington Post.
There will be a few behind the scenes moves made in 2014 in addition to the league’s public Don’t Cross the Line campaign and partnership with the You Can Play Project:
- A Player Code of Conduct that includes non-discrimination and anti-harassment language will be posted both in home and visitors’ locker rooms.
- Training for players will be expanded. (Hopefully Wade Davis at You Can Play gets to see lots of MLS cities.)
- There will be a lead person at Major League Soccer’s central office for handling harassment and discrimination complaints.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in his statement:
I applaud Major League Soccer for working cooperatively with us to promote a culture of inclusion. Together, we are sending a powerful message that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in any form in the world of major league sports.
The New York State Attorney General’s Office has previously worked with Major League Baseball and the National Football League on anti-discrimination efforts.
Dozens of supporters groups have expressed their support for the LGBT community since this site started. And Major League Soccer has partnered with the You Can Play Project since last season.
Now it’s time to combine those two things as we issue a challenge to soccer supporters groups all throughout 2014: Make the next great You Can Play video.
DC United, the San Jose Earthquakes, the Seattle Reign, and Toronto FC have all made videos. And now, whether your support MLS, NWSL, NASL, USL, a national team, or any other team or league, it’s your turn to show support video style. Check out what some San Jose Sharks fans made:
We’ll be looking for your videos all throughout the year, and when the playoffs come this fall we’ll be picking a top video from all of the submissions we see. Videos will receive ratings in three areas:
- How well it spreads the “You Can Play” message
- How well it shows off your supporters group
- Overall video quality
Need advice or help with your video’s messaging? Email us at email@example.com and we can talk about ideas. You can share final videos via methods like Google Drive or Dropbox or any other medium that works for you. Just let us know where it is and we’ll share it with the world. You have until October 31.
We hope many supporters groups can take part in this exciting project. Because if you can chant, you can chant. If you can cheer, you can cheer. And if you can play, you can play.
Hysén came out exactly three years ago in an interview with Swedish soccer magazine Offside and in this site’s first interview told us that one of his career dreams was to play in the United States.
For the past four seasons he has played for Utsiktens BK in Sweden’s third division. The Mutiny are in the fourth division of the American soccer pyramid, on par with the USL Premier Development League, and eligible for US Open Cup competition.
I’ve had the opportunity to have some conversation with Hysén about this move while it has been in the works and while he knows he’s playing in a lower league in America, he feels that it’s a better opportunity to get exposure and playing time in a country he loves. His move across the Atlantic is expected to happen in April ahead of the new season.
Off the field Anton Hysén is also known as the seventh champion of Sweden’s version of Dancing with the Stars. His father, former Liverpool defender Glenn Hysén, is currently competing on the show.
This year we did something new for us to review all of the new MLS jerseys. We did a Google+ Hangout On Air to cover them all and give our thoughts. Our panel included Chris in Austin, a Philadelphia Union fan, Teddy in Denver, a Colorado Rapids fan, and Josh in Seattle, a Sounders fan. We were joined by special guest Craig from PuckBuddys.com as a token hockey fan who roots for the Washington Capitals. It was great to get an outsider’s perspective on kit / sweater nerd culture and explain to him why our uniforms say things like “Bimbo” on the front.
I know we all had a lot of fun doing the Hangout and hope you enjoy our chat. We hope to bring you more of these throughout the MLS season covering soccer action both on and off the field and to bring you more great special guests.
February 15, 2013 is a day I will always remember. Robbie Rogers came out publicly as a gay man, was embraced by the soccer community, and was on his way to making professional sports history.
I remember sitting at the desk in my office, very much ready for the weekend to begin in six or so hours. Then I saw the tweet: “Just getting some sh*t off my chest” along with a link to therobbierogers.com.
Now I feel like I need to say that I don’t make presumptions about any player’s sexuality. But at the same time as I moved my mouse pointer to that link a part of me wondered, “Is this it? Is this going to be an American soccer player coming out of the closet while still in the prime of his career?” It truly was a gut feeling based on nothing whatsoever.
I read the post. I read it again. And again. I wanted to make sure what I was reading was exactly what I thought it was. Even then, a part of me wasn’t sure. If you go back and look at the first versions of posts to the site that day, they all said “appears to have come out.” Part of my brain still thought it was too good to be true, although the posting was soon confirmed as legitimate.
But yeah, there was also a part of me that was filled with nothing short of giddy excitement. It’s funny because my company had just hired someone for my department a week before and she was in the office to be trained by me. Who knows what she thought of me nervously pacing around with my phone in my hand. I texted my best friend. I sent messages to the other out soccer players I knew of in North Carolina, in Montreal, and in Sweden. It’s so odd how I remember exactly what I did one year ago.
Then I set up a Tweetdeck search. What would the reaction be? Would people care? Would people be supportive?
I was nothing short of overwhelmed. The love from teammates, other players, and so many fans had me beaming all day long. That reaction is so much of what made the day so special for me. Our community coming together to virtually wrap our arms around one of our own, letting him know he is loved and that whatever path he would choose to go down, we all had his back.
That’s why I made the video above. I wanted some sort of memento of February 15, 2013. Something to remember the brave step Robbie Rogers took and the way a world reacted. And how proud I felt that day to be a fan of American soccer.
Robbie Rogers wasn’t the first soccer player to come out, and he certainly won’t be the last. And I know that every time we have another day like February 15, 2013, soccer players and fans from around our soccer community will envelop that next out player with our love.