Good Friday morning Caps fans. It’s been a long week and I hope you all can take a second today or this weekend to take a deep breath and find your inner zen.
We begin, however, as we have been on a more serious note. Protests continue across the country and around the world over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer.
You may ask why your friendly local soccer blog keeps bringing this up. Well, firstly no reader of this column can be surprised by my belief that sports are political.
And the soccer team that we all know and love supported that position earlier this week, posting a photo of players at training, kneeling with their fists in the air in the traditional black power salute.
There has been a lot of valid pushback to corporations posting similar messages on social media, with folks arguing that they are walking the walk without talking the talk. But as someone who unfortunately has lived through the aftermath of so many instances of police brutality, the response from sports organizations in support of its athletes of color and the people of color who live in their communities has certainly taken on a different tone.
It wasn’t long ago that Megan Rapinoe was in effect banned from kneeling during the national anthem (not to mention what happened to Colin Kaepernick). Saying that black lives mattered was an intensely political statement and one that many organizations simply weren’t willing to say. Words do matter (another tenant of this blog).
But actions, of course, speak loudest. Canada has no shortage of issues in terms of policing and people of color, despite what some of its residents think. I’m not Canadian so I won’t tell y’all what to do but it did strike me that an indigenous woman from British Columbia was shot and killed by Newfoundland police just days ago. The challenges of racism are as real in the Whitecaps’ backyard as they are in my own, here in Pennsylvania.
I would hope that the tweet from the Caps is the beginning, not the end, of its engagement with these issues. I hope it hires more people of color in top-level executive and coaching roles. I hope it continues to use its players of color as role models, while not letting white members of its organization off the hook for setting an example in allyship. And I hope the club continues to use strong language in supporting those fighting racism and oppression in British Columbia and around the world.
In terms of bright spots? Well we got a pretty significant one earlier this week, as players and ownership agreed to a deal not just for the Orlando tournament but also dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on a new CBA.
It was not without drama, as there was a brief threat on the part of the owners to lock the players out, a bit of a shady move given the concessions they demanded of players from a CBA that had already, in effect, been agreed to.
But a work stoppage would have been nothing short of disastrous for the league. Far be it from me to agree with Alexi Lalas but on this he’s right:
Glad to see cooler heads prevail. @MLS is far from a golden goose, but you still won’t eat if you kill it. MLS is a luxury, not a necessity. 25 yrs in business is great, but the next 25 yrs isn’t promised. Plenty of challenges ahead, including optics of broadcasts from Orlando.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) June 3, 2020
As Major League Baseball can attest to, work stoppages are a killer. In this case, it also could have prompted contractual chaos, with players potentially instantly becoming free agents—a disaster for what could happen to the league’s brightest stars.
It is not clear that we ever came that close to seeing a strike—it appears to have largely been posturing on the part of the owners to ensure the MLSPA signed off on a final deal. But the league quickly went from being at risk of what would have been a financial disaster to being in a position of strength, ensuring that it did not lose any more ground to the major European leagues in the minds of American soccer fans.
We don’t have exact details on when the Orlando tournament is set to kick off but a safe bet seems late June, which is about when the NBA will resume play as well (it might get a bit cozy down in Disney World).
I still have some mixed feelings about the idea and, given that an FC Dallas player tested positive for COVID-19 this week there is still clearly some risk. But for now I’m going to relax and enjoy the fact that MLS is coming back.
On last update, this time regarding a former Caps player which has already resumed play:
Canadian centre-back Doneil Henry named Suwon Bluewings' MVP for the month of May. Not a bad start to life in South Korea. (And what's this about moonlighting as a muscle-spray spokesperson?) #CanMNT #kleague pic.twitter.com/eWwQdSoZ82— Devon Rowcliffe (@WhoAteTheSquid) June 5, 2020
Our bud Doneil Henry was named May player of the month (and apparently staring in advertisements?) for Suwon Bluewings. If you’ve watched any of Suwon’s K League action, you’ll have noted that Henry has done a good job adapting in his new home and seems well suited to make a case for an even bigger move to Europe. While it is still a bummer not seeing him in a Caps uniform, godspeed Doneil—there are a lot more Suwon Bluewings fans in North America than this time last season.
Onto the links:
Shameless Self Promotion
Jake Nerwinski is the Caps’ union rep and he has some thoughts about how the negotiations all played out
Best of the Rest
More from The Athletic on tensions which came out during the labor negotiations and how that might affect things going forward
Seria A have been dealt a serious blow in their hopes of returning to finish the season