Sunday, February 19, 2006

Is this big trouble brewing in DC?

In the seedy underworld that most of us soccer fans dwell in we find most of our news, especially news about MLS through the internet, and mainly through the soccer message board, BigSoccer. Late last night I logged on and saw what is surely the beginning of a huge shitstorm brewing in DC. Apparently DC United coach Piotr Nowak during a scrimmage remarked during a heated discussion that the opposing team (Real Salt Lake) should sen one of their players back to Africa. The player, is actually from the Carribean. The story, as we know it now in its infant stages can be found here. Not so much to go on yet, right? Well that's the nature of our soccer news for the time being.

A few points in the interest of full disclosure. I hate DC United. I hate DC United like I hate the Dallas Cowboys, New York Mets, and bullies who kick defenseless puppies. Nowak also was never my favorite player in the league when he played for Chicago, and he definately hasn't gone up in stature for me coaching at DC.

Now, we do not know how true this is. Ellinger's comments on that interview are the only comments on record as of Sunday morning about the incident. Ellinger did not bring up the subject, however, a member of the press did as he was doing the radio interview. There was no story in the Washington Post about this or anywhere else.

It should also be noted that DC United has been working with the city to try to get their own stadium complex built. This stadium complex as drawn up would be in a primarily black district of the DC area. Furthermore, for better or worse, the highest profile player in MLS is 16 or 17 year old Freddy Adu. Born in Ghana, now living in the DC area and playing under Nowak. Regarded as a prodigy of sorts, there were many stories surrounding Adu last season and his lack of playing time. Adu was aslo suspended a game late in the season, maybe even the playoffs, come to think of it, for conduct detrimental to the team.

I only bring up the stadium situation and Adu, because if this does wind up hitting the mainstream press it's gonna be a public relations nightmare. It's not for me to say whether Nowak's comments were racist. I have no idea whether he is or not. He's Polish and has played professionally and coached professionally with players of all backgrounds. If he were David Duke, there would have been smoke before now. However, at the same time, as one of the faces of what is probably MLS's most well known team, what he did was incredibly stupid.

First, it will be a nightmare working with city officials and trying to get funding for a stadium when your coach is accused of allegedly making a racist comment. It's just not a scandal that is wanted or needed. A more auxilarary (i couldn't possibly have spelled that word right) concern is that there may be a sports columnist, somewhere in the DC area, wanting to make a splash who gets a hold of this story and then connects two dots that should not be connected putting together the lack of playing time for Freddy Adu and Nowak's alleged racist remarks. And then you have public opinion swayed by some blowhard wordsmith who knows next to nothing about the actual situation.

At any rate this could fizzle out before it hits the mainstream press. But if it hits the mainstream press Nowak and DC could very well be in a very bad place. Should DC United try to head this off initially and beat the press to the punch with a Nowak apology, or should they take their chances that this doesn't blow up? I don't know, but even as a fan who hates DC United, this is upsetting simply because it is not the publicity the league needs right now 1 month from the start of the season.

AFTERNOON EDIT: Dwelling on this most the am, I just can not see how Nowak doesn't get fired for this. Perception is reality in these situations more often than not, and I don't see how he can say anything that will be able to convince people what he said was not racist in nature.