clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Reflecting on the Many Vancouver Whitecaps Scandals

New, 18 comments
MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Initially I was going to write about Maxime Crepeau this week, but AtlantisB beat me to it. To be fair, he’d started several weeks ago so serves me right for being late to that one. In preparation for that article, I even started tweeting about it....that didn’t go too well as people were pissed.

Fair point.

Usually, bad teams make excuses for their own team, not others.

Good times. But since that ground has already been fairly well covered I thought I’d take the time to collect my thoughts on the Vancouver Whitecaps scandals that have taken place over the past couple of months and where we go from here.

Racism Scandal and Second Chances:

I don’t want to rehash too much of the background on this, so if you are not familiar, here is a refresher.

Since the Whitecaps have stood by Brett Adams, the question of if he deserved a second chance has been raised. Since I called for his job I guess I should address that, although I think focusing on this misses the wider point. The idea that people should be given a second chance is one I’m very sympathetic too. I believe that punishments should aim to be transformative, rather than punitive. That is to say, I think when doling out punishments our aim should be to correct bad behaviour not to destroy the life of the person we are punishing. If a coach were to behave badly but then took some time away from the game, did some soul searching, some reading, maybe even the dreaded sensitivity training, and then came back a genuinely changed person then I wouldn’t have a problem with that. The problem is that in the case of Adams, we don’t really have any evidence this happened. He’s never spoken publicly, and deleted his twitter account when reporters contacted him for comment. Whitecaps club President Bob Lenarduzzi, former Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit and Nelson soccer president Chuck Bennet have all stood by him. But notably absent from all of these defences has been any of them saying that Adams has reformed himself. Let’s look at Jay DeMerit’s tweets on the matter as an example:

Demerit says that Adams is a great man and has an innovative approach for coaching. That may well be true, I’ve never met him. But nowhere in this defence does DeMerit say Adams is reformed, or sorry for his actions. I was not the only person to pick up on this it seems:

DeMerit again praises Adams’ coaching but remains illusive about the thing that Adams was actually accused of. To be clear, DeMerit might be totally right. Adams might be a great guy who made a bad mistake in his past but nevertheless is a great coach. There is no real way for an outside observer to say if that’s the case or not but it is a possibility. But is his experience consistent with that of the players (particularly visible minorities) who have been coached by Adams? We haven’t heard from them. All we’ve heard from are three white guys. That’s not to say that white guys can’t have an opinion on these things. I know there’s a fear out there that lefty university students such as myself are on a mission to do a communism and send you all to the gulags for minor infractions, but I assure you that’s not what’s happening here. That can wait! Just kidding...maybe...we’ll see how the next federal election goes. All I’m saying is, if Adams is racist but has learned open displays of racism are met with punishment, then would white guys like DeMerit, Lenarduzzi, and Bennet who are also in positions of authority be the first to notice something was amiss if he was tormenting people in more subtle ways? Probably not. Furthermore, though this may seem an obvious point, throwing a banana at a black person is pretty bad. It’s a well recognized racist taunt with many high profile cases. It also requires a degree of premeditation, you have to actually go and get a banana. It’s not like he had a moment of madness or told on off-colour joke in the heat of the moment. Though that would also be a bad thing to be doing as someone in charge of minors, he had to have thought about it a bit before doing it, which in my view makes it much worse.

So does Adams deserve a second chance? I don’t know, maybe. It would be a lot easier if he would actually allow the public to question him in some way. I can understand not wanting to always have to answer for a mistake made long ago but, as the old saying goes, if you can’t handle the heat don’t throw bananas at black players under your tutelage. Your actions have consequences.

The other thing that really bothers me about the “second chances” narrative is it’s not like the Whitecaps thought about it for a long time, reviewed the evidence, and decided giving Adams a second chance was the right thing to do (perhaps after a probationary period in which he was observed by a more senior academy coach). Instead they saw he was recommended to them by some mysterious unnamed figure within the club and hired him seemingly without even googling him. If he made it through, then who else has made it through those lax hiring checks that we don’t know about? To me that’s the real disturbing aspect of the Adams scandal. The colour of Brett Adams’ soul is between him and God. But if you can get hired by the Whitecaps with a very public racism investigation into you, what other buffoonery do their employees get up too?

KJ, What’s Good My Man?

On May 3rd 2019 TSN analyst Kristian Jack tweeted the following:

Damn, son! KJ has a higher duty! A duty to truth! How dare puny bloggers question his dedication to that duty!? Kristian Jack brings hard hitting soccer news the Canadian people can trust!

I was recently blocked by KJ. Disappointed to have earned the ire of such a paragon of truth and righteousness, I did an audit of my interactions with him. I have tweeted to KJ three times. The first time was to send him an @AmanLoodu joke:

The second time was the same day when I quote tweeted him and asked for some clarification, in what I genuinely hope was taken in a respectful tone, on what he was claiming about the 2018 Whitecaps dressing room (he didn’t respond). I wasn’t blocked after either of those tweets. But a few months later:

Now I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything. Maybe KJ was really upset that I used “your” instead of “you’re”. But it seems like I was blocked for asking him to inquire with his friend about that sexual abuse that was covered up under said friend’s watch. That seems like the sort of thing that a person who has a duty to his audience, an audience that may be bigger than that of any other soccer reporter in the country, would be asking about. It is, after all, a massive public interest story that has been reported in both national and international publications. But one of the biggest soccer personalities in Canada remains conspicuously silent. If I were a cynical man I might say that KJ’s dedication to the truth and duty to his audience doesn’t extend to reporting that might challenge the established order of soccer in this country. But I don’t want to assume the worst. Maybe if you’re unblocked you should ask him (respectfully!) what’s up. Maybe ask the other TSN personalities as well. But that brings us along to the next scandal.

Whitecaps Continue to Handle Women’s Abuse Scandal:

Obviously this should take a back seat to serious issues like assault and harassment but wow, the Whitecaps on field performance in MLS makes a lot more sense now doesn’t it? We’ve gotten the chance to see the Whitecaps try to solve a problem in a very public way for the first time and it’s just a mess. Every action is reactive instead of proactive and comes long after it should have happened. So when you see how they handle something like this you can see how we’d end up with the results we have in the MLS era. Let’s recap, shall we?

First:

The Whitecaps put out a new statement! It was a lot better than their previous statement but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to it so that takes a lot of the potential goodwill they could have gotten out of it. If this had been their first statement then it would have been a pretty decent start. But they first tried not acknowledging it at all, and then putting out a statement with no names attached to it and full of corporate jargon, so it comes off a bit inauthentic.

Second:

The Whitecaps quickly blew up the first slightly good thing they’ve done on the abuse scandal by having media availability for only approved outlets. Not included on the approved list were news 1130 reporter Martin MacMahon and Province reporter J.J Adams:

Jeremey Nuttall of the Vancouver Star tried to get in but was refused access:

His Colleague David P. Ball was chewed out for trying to, you know, report on the story:

And according to Joanna Chiu, also of the Star, it didn’t stop there:

Not a great look, folks. In fact, it’s hard to think of a worse look.

What’s that Whitecaps? Hold your beer? Oh no....

One of the defining aspects of McCormack’s blog, for me at least, is how the Whitecaps executives basically sold the players who complained out at the first opportunity. I can totally understand not trusting them to be the bringers of change for this situation. As someone pointed out (I can’t remember who it was but send me a tweet if it was you and I’ll include it) this is a vote of confidence in the front office from ownership. This is perhaps the scariest thing. Despite attendance steadily falling and a not insignificant number of people saying they’ll stay away from the team until real change happens, as far as ownership is concerned everything is going just fine.