COMMENTARY | In allowing Manchester City to partner up with the New York Yankees in order to create New York City Football Club, Major League Soccer hasn't just crossed its own line. MLS covered that line with reportedly around $100 million before happily skipping over it. Plenty of fans in the United States have noticed and pointed out the hypocrisy that's found in this soccer marriage.
How much people actually care, however, has yet to be determined.
The English Premier League's City are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Along with buying a $1 billion squad that won the 2011-12 EPL title on goal difference, Sheikh Mansour also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE does not have what you would call a sterling human rights record, most notably, for the purpose of this piece, when it comes to how the country deals with gay and lesbian individuals.
On the other end of the human rights issue is MLS, which once again launched its "Don't Cross The Line" campaign at the beginning of the 2013 regular season. "We're part of a global community," begins part of a statement that's vocalized during one of the league's advertisements. "Whatever your 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."
MLS has, in the past, been very serious about this subject. Players such as San Jose Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon have received suspensions and fines for using homosexual slurs during league contests. Earlier this month, a group of Houston Dynamo supporters found themselves in a bit of hot water after one person posted some highly offensive and regrettable Tweets.
When the issue came up during Tuesday's official NYCFC unveiling, it was made clear that Manchester City and not Sheikh Mansour are the majority owners of the new MLS side. League commissioner Don Garber also praised City for their work in the local community and for the club's "stances that they've taken as it relates to any types of discrimination." City also had a major hand in the creation of a soccer field on a rooftop located in Spanish Harlem.
That's all well and good as long as you don't dwell on the money trail for those projects.
Just as fascinating as is the NYCFC tale has been the reactions to the news from people posting on websites such as Facebook and Twitter. More than a few are unhappy about Sheikh Mansour's City having anything to do with MLS. " @nycfc the team that cares more about their owners/money than the Human/LGBT Rights in the UAE," Tweeted one person. " @MLS what is your position on Sheikh Monsour & the UAE's law banning homosexuals and their horrendous record on women's rights? #NYFC #MLS," asked another. The matter has hardly gone unnoticed.
That said, it seems that nobody cares enough to actually do anything outside of complain about it via the Internet.
I have not heard or read about a single protest occurring at either Tuesday's or Wednesday's NYCFC public events. As far as I know, no march or similar gathering is currently scheduled to take place before Saturday evening's City vs. Chelsea game that will be held at Yankee Stadium. The subject isn't even mentioned on the Gay4Soccer website, a site that jumped on the previously mentioned Gordon and Dynamo supporters group incidents almost immediately.
In all fairness, activists in and around New York City have bigger things to worry about than a MLS team that won't play a meaningful game until 2015. There's also the fact that, while more popular in and around Manhattan than in smaller towns found in the US, soccer remains but a blip on the radars of casual sports fans. Mike Francesa, host of the area's top sports talk radio program, stated on Tuesday that "the last thing I could care about is the Yankees owning a soccer team." MLS is a league in which revenue is shared. Are any fans out there who planned on going to a game this weekend now staying home because of NYCFC?
I don't at all intend on addressing this matter again outside of this piece, mostly because I know that what's done is done. Manchester City, the Yankees and Major League Soccer are now best buds, and nothing that I, or Tim Hall of First Touch Online, or Jeff Carlisle of ESPN say is going to change that. MLS is a business first, and an expansion fee that is rumored to be roughly $100 million is not easy to turn down;
especially when the majority of your customers have no real objections to the deal.
Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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