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America’s Immigration Policy Prompts Response from Footballer Michael Bradley as Terror Hits Quebec

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When American footballer Michael Bradley was asked for his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s executive action banning travel to the U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim countries for 90 days, he didn’t mince words on his Instagram account:

A few hours ago ago I gave an interview to Grant Wahl. After 15 minutes of an interview that was centered around soccer and our national team, he asked me my thoughts on President Trump’s ban on Muslims. [A very fair question. But one that caught me totally off guard. Uncomfortable giving such strong thoughts without really being able to think them through,] I gave an answer where I tried to make it clear that while I understand the need for safety, the values and ideals of our country should never be sacrificed. I believe what I said, but it was too soft. The part I left out is how sad and embarrassed I am. When Trump was elected, I only hoped that the President Trump would be different than the campaigner Trump. That the xenophobic, misogynistic and narcissistic rhetoric would be replaced with a more humble and measured approach to leading our country. I was wrong. And the Muslim ban is just the latest example of someone who couldn’t be more out of touch with our country and the right way to move forward.”

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Michael Bradley. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/29/michael-bradley-donald-trump-travel-ban-sports

 

Of course The Guardian’s article missed the portion [in brackets] but that is to be expected; Mr. Bradley did the best he could in a difficult situation. Indeed, Mr. Trump’s actions have been problematic for the American sports world, as the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been scrambling to understand how the order will affect their players. While Yahoo’s sympathetic portrayal of the NBA shines through in this article, the NBA’s neo-colonialism should not be ignored; the culture industry of American sports cannot be both “pro-immigration” and exploitative at the same time (despite how much American media tries to emphasize the former while downplaying the latter):

The NBA has several global initiative programs, including Basketball Without Borders, that recruit, develop and invest in Sudanese players. Several top Sudanese players are attending American high schools and colleges on visas and could become NBA draft picks.

There can be no denying that the implementation of Mr. Trump’s executive order was flawed. After all, you cannot turn away those who have had visas approved—and those who have received green cards and permanent residency in the United States—without warning. This is the kind of off-the-cuff policy that leads to the embarrassing chaos experienced in airports across the United States. Yet, at the same time, Mr. Trump is merely doing what he promised to do (which is normal, since he is—in a democracy—accountable to the people, theoretically). And there is also a very real conflict going on in the world despite what people want to claim. Just one day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced (on 28 January 2017) that Canada would take the refugees banned by the United States, there was a shooting at a Quebec Mosque on 29 January 2017 that left six dead and eight injured. Either this is some sort of a twisted coincidence, or it is the kind of event that should show the Western world that there clearly is a problem that must be addressed.

 

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Is Learning that Talk is Cheap. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/trudeau-canada-refugees-banned-u-s/

 

Of course the media aimed to spin it in different directions (another reason we should be skeptical of all media) with some claiming the attacker was a Muslim and CNN describing the attacker as a White student. As a Turk, I am more than aware of the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism and am therefore not concerned with the media’s attempts to shape public opinion (the head of general security in Dubai also had no problems with Mr. Trump’s policies): I repeat that there is a very real problem and I am also happy that Mr. Bradley, Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trudeau have at least started to talk about it (regardless of their positions on the subject). After all, without talk there can be no progress. Unfortunately, the fake news and odd fact-twisting stories proliferating on the internet only serve to create more problems; former President Barack Obama’s weighing in on the issue—after it was his flawed policies that created the problem in the first place—is even more ridiculous but that is for another time.

 

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Odd fact-twisting at its best. Although refugees as a group are certainly not mass murderers by any means, it would be erroneous to argue that there have not been problematic attacks perpetrated by refugees, as “uberfeminist” points out in this impassioned tweet. I will also agree that CNN could do a little better with their reporting, although I will not use the same kind of language. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/uberfeminist/status/825963414316937216

 

In the end, the Western world must realize that the root cause of “refugees” or “migrants” does not really have to do with any qualities inherent to “Muslim” countries. The truth of the matter is there would be much fewer “migrants” or “refugees” had the Western countries not meddled in Syria (and the wider Middle East) and stoked (created?) a civil war in the first place. I also believe that, having spoken with Syrian refugees in Greece last year, such people would prefer to live in their own countries and not in the United States or Canada. And I can understand the sentiment; both the United States and Canada are (like most industrialized countries) societies that emphasize the individual over the collective. It is the kind of society that can be alienating to people who come from more collective societies (such as the type found in many Middle Eastern countries). In light of Mr. Trump’s poorly-implemented policy we must recognize that the current crisis is one almost single-handedly created by the West (even if Senator Mr. Chuck Schumer’s pathetic crocodile tears tried to show a modicum of “compassion”). Despite what proponents of globalism and globalization might say, I don’t think any one truly wants to live outside of their country and away from their families, friends, culture, and language. Instead of looking to create a homogenous world we would be better off recognizing—and most importantly respecting—a heterogeneous world. Regardless of where we are from we are all people who want to live in peace; this does not, however, mean that we must be forced to live together or in the same way. Respect for different cultures is important, and any policies aiming for homogenization are doomed to failure since they are inherently disrespectful of difference.

We must realize, as Robert Kaplan does, that the United States’ strength is rooted in its geography. The fact that it is separated from the rest of the world by two oceans means that it need not be engulfed in the conflicts of the world. At the same time, as Kaplan notes, the United States cannot fully disentangle itself from the globalization it itself created. But it can, I argue, negotiate the flows of globalization on its own terms; the sooner we recognize the perils of globalization, by taking a critical position on it, the better off we all will be.

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US World Cup Hangover: The Economics of Soccer in the United States

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The United States bowed out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup after a spirited performance against Belgium—a nation of just 11 million (or, as one humorous article put it, “a Dakota and a half”. For the record, Ohio’s population of 11,570,808 makes it the closest state in terms of population to Belgium. A “Dakota and a half” renders only around 1.5 million).

While the loss was not unexpected it was still upsetting for me as it is any time one of my countries loses in football—especially since, inexplicably, the US had a chance to win the game at the death before Chris Wondolowski—also inexplicably—managed to make a mess of his moment in front of goal. But football is, sometimes, like life. You get your one moment, and you either make the best of it . . . or you don’t. There is no real in between.

A few articles have been written in the wake of the United States’ second round exit, including a very interesting one that asks the question “Has the US Men’s National Team Plateaued?”. Personally, I would be less dramatic—after all, this is football and anything can happen. I should know. My other team, Turkey, made an improbable run to third place at the 2002 World Cup—and another to the semifinals of the 2008 European Championships with an admittedly under-talented side. Hard work coupled with heart and belief can go a long way in football (like it can in life)—just look at the Greece team that won the 2004 European Championship!

So do I think the United States will, in the next three World Cups (a twelve year cycle), have a stunning performance? Yes, I suppose I do. But I won’t ask them to compete with the likes of Brazil, Argentina, and Germany year in and year out. And that’s ok because I also—secretly—like soccer in the US to be more of an inside joke amongst those of us who truly enjoy the game for what it is, and not some marquis event for frat boys who want an excuse to slam beers at odd hours of the working day in the name of banal nationalism done ‘Muricuh style. And that inside joke would be made even sweeter if the US somehow managed to scare the world by advancing past the Quarterfinals of a World Cup. I’ve watched enough US matches on foreign soil to recognize the glee when the US concedes a goal—in the last week alone I’ve seen it in both Russia and Turkey—and I can imagine the fear of a US World Cup win.

It does not appear that soccer in the US will ever move beyond being an inside joke that becomes part of the country’s mainstream culture for just a few summer weeks once every four years (selling many Nike shirts in the meantime) before, again, retreating into hibernation. I don’t think like this because I’m negative or a non-believer in US soccer, it is mainly because I am a realist—both in International Relations theory and in terms of football. When one looks at the facts it should not come as a surprise that the United States will never be a true world power in football. At the heart of it—as in so many cases—lies economics (James Carville would be proud).

The top professional soccer league in the United States is Major League Soccer (MLS), a league that has been steadily improving since its inception in 1996 despite competing with the other major American sports for visibility, fans, and . . . athletes.

Its not hard to understand why. On April 10, 2014 MLS released their salary information and the results were shocking. The top seven salaries in MLS—those of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Defoe, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry, and Tim Cahill—account for 31% of all player salaries. In fact, as Empireofsoccer.com shows, the top 5% of earners represent 45% of total player salaries. That is a huge disparity for a country that prides itself on equality (perhaps there is a psychological dimension to this as well—the economics of MLS are fundamentally un-American!).

The salaries of the aforementioned seven players have, as empireofsoccer.com stated, inflated the league’s average salary to a figure of $207,831 (up from the 2013 figure of $165,066 when the median salary was just $100,000). Still, just a cursory look at a sample of the Colorado Rapid’s salary information for the 2014 season shows some glaring examples of the issues in play. At least three Rapids players—professional athletes who face far greater risk of serious injury daily than I ever did at work—make less money than I made sitting at a desk in my old day job!

Now compare the (admittedly inflated) average salary figure of $207,831 in MLS to the average salaries in the other major US sports from two years ago, courtesy of Forbes unless cited otherwise:

 

Major League Baseball (MLB): $3.2 million in 2012, now it is just under $4 million.

National Basketball Association (NBA): $5.15 million, now it is 3,453,241 (with a median of $1,500,000—fifteen times the MLS median in 2013).

National Football League (NFL): $1.9 million

National Hockey League (NHL): $2.4 million

 

The disparity is staggering. And now lets look back at that list of the seven highest paid MLS players, for a moment. Only three of the seven—Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan—are American. And after Jurgen Klinsmann’s now legendary snubbing of Landon Donovan, only two of them made it to the United States’ World Cup squad! Clearly, what big money that does exist in MLS is certainly not going to help the development of the US Men’s National team. And that means that for your average American soccer player, the chances of making big money at home—and representing your country on the biggest stage—are very small indeed.

This in itself poses a problem for the development of the game in the US. Many talented soccer players at the youth level in the United States often play multiple sports. Soccer is either a fall or spring sport depending on where you live, so that leaves the options of American Football and Baseball in other seasons, not to mention Basketball and Hockey in the winter months. Unlike in other countries, where football is the only money-making game in town, American athletes have other options as well that may prove to be more lucrative in the long term. While it is obviously difficult to make it as a professional in any of the major US sports, the fact that there is more money—and more collegiate scholarships (Soccer has the same number of NCAA Division 1 scholarships as Swimming/Diving and Wrestling)—available in the other sports means that it is very difficult to keep the country’s best athletes playing football. This is a fact that, unfortunately, does not bode well for the hopes of developing a truly world class US Men’s National Team; it doesn’t meant that it is impossible by any means, just that it is more difficult than it is in other nations.

 

Tim Howard Does His Country Proud, But Can Only Slump Off In The End As Belgium Move On:

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/07/01/onsoccer/r7h11DZZUn5HsRJGqfZ0hJ/story.html