I purposely waited a few days before putting together such a piece. For starters, I didn't want my emotions to get the better of me, causing me to use a slur that would thus require me to post a halfhearted apology on social networking websites in the middle of the night. Secondly, I was really hoping Major League Soccer was going to take some sort of immediate action regarding this issue. I know. I should have known better.
There's little doubt in my mind that Colin Clark of the Houston Dynamo regrets what occurred this past Friday. For those of you who missed it, Clark wanted to take a quick throw-in during the first half of Friday's Seattle Sounders vs. Houston contest. The ball boy apparently didn't get the ball to Clark as quickly as the player desired. Clark responded to this as would any mature adult. He yelled two words at the ball boy, words that both start with the letter "F." The first was a profane word, and the second was an anti-homosexual slur.
Let's really break this down to get the whole picture of what occurred. For starters, Colin Clark, a professional athlete, wasn't involved in an argument with an opponent. Clark, a grown man, hurled an anti-gay slur toward an adolescent. Had that ball boy been caught saying the same thing to a fellow student earlier in the day, chances are that the boy who was verbally assaulted during Friday's match would have eventually found himself suspended from school, or possibly even expelled. This wasn't a child using such language, though. According to his official MLSSoccer.com profile, Clark is about to turn 28-years old. It's safe to assume, then, that Clark is well aware that it is now 2012, and that saying such words to any person is no longer socially acceptable in any forum.
Clark, via his Twitter page, posted the apology you would expect any athlete to post after such an incident. In that apology, he stated that he "didn't mean to disrespect anyone" and that he was "sorry for letting my emotions get the best of me." I'd now like to ask some questions in order to respond to Colin Clark. Do you fire off anti-gay slurs anytime you find yourself overly upset at an individual, or was this just a random occurrence? What if the ball boy had been African American? Would you have instead opted to use a racist term? Probably not, because such a comment is, as everybody knows, extremely offensive and completely unacceptable.
I also want to point out that Clark's comment came during the ninth minute of Houston's third regular season match of the campaign. What would have been Clark's response had this occurred in stoppage time of the MLS Cup Final? Punch the kid in the face? It's also worth noting that this all happened as Clark was standing near a field microphone. An example of homophobia is exactly what NBC Sports was hoping to air when they signed that three-year deal with MLS back in August. Bad press is better than no press at all, right?
Football/soccer leagues around the world have been taking drastic steps to eliminate racism, sexism, homophobia, and other serious issues that have plagued the sport for far too long. It's now time for Major League Soccer to do its part. Anything short of an eight-match ban would be an embarrassment. Suspending Clark is only the beginning. It seems obvious that some sort of sensitivity training is necessary. Perhaps Clark can be subjected to multiple viewings of those dreadful "kick (whatever) out of football" and "think b4 you speak" videos.
In all seriousness, this isn't merely about punishing Colin Clark. Those running Major League Soccer need to make a statement that such conduct is 100 percent unacceptable. To be perfectly honest, I'd be fine if Clark was banished until 2013. Let's not kid ourselves, here. You know what any potential ticket-buyer isn't saying to himself on March 28, 2012? "Man, I hope Colin Clark is an available option when the Houston Dynamo come to town." Give Clark plenty of free time to think about what he said.
Perhaps keeping him away from kids until he better learns to control his temper is also a good idea.
Note: Right as this piece was published, Major League Soccer announced that Colin Clark was suspended three games. The player will also attend diversity and sensitivity training. Obviously, the author believes Clark deserved a worse punishment.
- Colin Clark
- Major League Soccer
- Houston Dynamo