MLS Commissioner Puts New York Times in the Penalty

Don Garber harshly criticizes New York Times Magazine piece written by Jay Caspian Kang.

It didn’t take long for Major League Soccer (MLS) to formally respond to an article in the July 17 issue of The New York Times Magazine, posted online Tuesday. Written by Jay Caspian Kang, “The Dark Side of American Soccer Culture” distills time spent by the author at Seattle Sounders home games and his thoughts about local fan group the Emerald City Supporters (E.C.S.).


A large chunk of Kang’s piece is devoted to examples of past and present U.K. hooliganism. That history is connected to the Sounders in both photographic form (a shot from 2013 depicts E.C.S. members burning a scarf emblazoned with the insignia of opposing team the Portland Timbers) and passages like this:

About a half-hour before kickoff, E.C.S. arrived to the beating of drums. They marched a few hundred deep up the alleyway, holding banners and scarves above their heads. Some wore bandannas over their faces; some held up flares of green smoke; the vast majority were white. In throaty unison, they sang: “Take ’em all, Take ’em all, put ’em up against a wall and shoot ’em! Short and tall, watch ’em fall. Come on boys, take ’em all!” Each phrase was sung with a disorienting British lilt.

MLS commissioner Don Garber happens to be in Seattle this week for a technology summit. During a scheduled press event, he spoke to reporters Tuesday about the article. From a report by

“Like unfortunately things can be with the media, it was poorly reported, factually incorrect and irresponsible, with a lack of any research whatsoever,” Garber said. “Frankly, something like this should never see the light of day…”

“This was not some blog. This was The New York Times. They know better,” Garber said. “What empowers me is to see the guy getting scorched in social media, because this is just not representative of good journalism.”

Kang was separately criticized Tuesday via Facebook by TNR executive editor Ryan Kearney, prompting some lively back-and-forth on Twitter. While Garber confirmed to journalists that no MLS officials or players were interviewed, that reflects more the type of piece Kang wrote than anything else.

In the article comments, Seattle user Allora writes, in part: ‘This piece is truly shameful. Poorly written, extremely biased and the “author” has done zero research… “They” in the “Line ’em Up” chant clearly – CLEARLY – refers to the other team, oh my god, that I even have to explain this to you is insulting… You think we chant with a British accent? Are you drunk? No, we don’t chant with a British accent. You’re either willfully ignorant or you need your hearing checked.’

Ultimately, there is no “Dark Side” revealed. And when Kang ends his piece with these thoughts, it betrays once again a focus on matters far from the Pacific Northwest:

There is nothing wrong about borrowing what you love, but it should be called what it is – a dream of an ultimately monochromatic gathering in which thousands of white men can brawl (but safely and without guns!) in the streets and drunkenly sing Phil Collins melodies in pubs, lending a hooligan snarl to a white, suburban culture.

As we previously reported, Kang also recently joined Vice as a civil rights correspondent.

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