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Sports, Separatism, Nationalism, Globalization, and the crisis of Western Liberalism in the United States and Spain

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The ills of the current world system are playing out on sports fields around the world. From Donald Trump’s battle with the kneelers of the NFL (National Football League) in the United States to Barcelona’s decision to protest La Liga’s call to play against Las Palmas in Spain, we are seeing a real battle between the globalist forces of global media and global capital and those who believe in the unifying power of civic nationalism.

In the United States, we see that—actually—a majority of adult Americans (58 percent) polled from 25-26 September, 2007, believe that players should be required to stand for the American national anthem before sporting events. At the same time, a similar majority (57 percent) believe that players should not be fired for not standing for the national anthem. In keeping with a sense of healthy—and uniting—civic nationalism, the majority of Americans got it right. It makes sense that players should be required to stand and respect their country’s national anthem; players should realize that it is their country—in this case, the United States—that has given them a chance to make millions for essentially moving a ball around a field. Few countries offer sports figures such astronomical sums as the United States does, and it is not absurd that players should recognize this fact. On the other hand, players should certainly not be forced (by threatening their jobs) to stand since that would be overly coercive. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady agrees with the majority of Americans’ position, saying President Trump’s call to fire players was “divisive”.  In the end, on Sunday 1 October 2017, the New England Patriots lined up for the national anthem in a way that—I believe at least—every American can be proud of.

 

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The Patriots Live Up To Their Name. Image Courtesy Of: https://nep.247sports.com/Bolt/New-England-Patriots-Tom-Brady-an-anthem-display-Happy-we-respon-108300938

 

On the other side of the coin, it is not surprising that multinational corporations—like Nike and Ford—sided with the kneeling players against President Donald Trump. This is not because they approached the controversy in a nuanced way (like apparently most Americans did), but because it is these multinational corporations that profit the most from globalism. These are the same multinationals that have transformed football from what was once “the beautiful game” into what is now known as “industrial football”—where local clubs in Britain are run by billionaires from East Asia and Middle East. It is a football world where—somehow—a European team like Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes can field a team made up of only non-European players in the UEFA Europa League (at the expense, of course, of local Portuguese footballers).

For the multinational companies, their “support” represents a poor attempt to gain good PR. It is as if—by “supporting” the players’ “right to freedom of expression”—the exploitation inherent in Nike’s East Asian sweatshops will be forgotten; what happened to those who protested Nike’s use of child labor and their workers’ poor working conditions? It is all part and parcel of the contradictions of modern liberalism. The current world order has—somehow—conned well-meaning “liberal” individuals into believing that they are “fighting a good fight” while really contributing to their own—and other’s—continuing subordination by what we may call the one-dimensional thought of modernity, to borrow from Herbert Marcuse. This is because constant media narratives (from the West) and commentary from celebrity figures continually encourage the one-dimensional thought of the masses around the world. It is illiberal liberalism.

A recent football related development in Spain represents a perfect examples of how this process plays out. FC Barcelona played their fixture against Las Palmas on 1 October 2017 behind closed doors as a form of protest against the Spanish government’s treatment of Catalan protesters during a referendum on independence from Spain. FC Barcelona’s statement read:

 

FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression.

Given the exceptional nature of events, the board of directors have decided that the FC Barcelona first-team game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors following the Professional Football League’s refusal to postpone the game.

 

The team’s statement had all the hallmarks of modern “liberal discourse”, including the “democratic right to free expression”. For the team, it is a PR coup. They also had the classic celebrity backing, in this case coming from a “tearful” Gerard Pique who threatened to quit the Spanish national team. Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola also weighed in, saying he wouldn’t have played the game at all, while his statement “Spain will try to hide the reality, but the rest of the world’s media will show it” represents a perfect example of the synthesis between celebrities and Western (in this case, non-Spanish) media in shaping public opinion. Even the football shirts worn in the match were political, as Barcelona donned a strip in the colors of the Catalan flag while Las Palmas showed up with a Spanish flag embroidered on their jersey.

 

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The Empty Stadium At Least Served for FC Barcelona to Send their Message: More Than a Club (Don’t Think That This Was Not Intended). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838

 

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The Political Jerseys of FC Barcelona (Middle) and UD Las Palmas (Bottom). Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838

 

Amid the maelstrom of controversy (because, somehow, the modern world—despite its inherent “liberalism”—is rife with conflict), the inevitable question rises: Which side, if any, is right? The answer is not easy, and in order to even attempt to answer this question we must attempt to break free of the kind of one-dimensional thought that threatens to paralyze our ability to think independently in the modern world. We must open our minds to alternative interpretations of events, free from the narratives we are constantly fed by our newsfeeds on social media and in the 24-hour news cycle of modern mass media.

First of all, in regards to Barcelona’s decision, it is unclear who the winners are: the players were unhappy (Pique was “tearful”), Mr. Guardiola was unhappy, and I don’t think Barcelona was very happy since they were caught between a rock and a hard place; either they could make a real political statement and boycott the match and then stand to have six points deducted, or they could save the six points and keep their hopes for winning a championship alive and (of course) earn more money for their brand in the process (they chose the latter). The biggest losers were most certainly the fans, since tens of thousands of people travel to Barcelona every year just to experience a game at the legendary Nou Camp. Those fans—who paid good money for a trip to Spain and a match ticket—were denied this experience. Perhaps the only winners were multinational corporations—like Nike—since the match served as a giant advertising campaign: Nike’s Catalan flag-themed shirt was on display along with their traditional “swoosh” due to the empty stands. It was the same old story of industrial football, the fans lost and the corporations won, all while the players cried crocodile tears. What is most interesting is that nowhere in the mainstream media will you find this analysis; mainstream media is too busy fawning over the romantic notions of “democracy” and “freedom” (even if it comes at the expense of the “middle class”, the ticket-purchasing fans).

 

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Nike Wins Big…As The Fans Lose. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/10/02/pep-guardiola-condemns-decision-play-barcelona-vs-las-palmas/

 

Second of all, in regards to Catalonia’s decision, it is similarly unclear who the winners would be in the event of Catalan independence from Spain. It is even unclear how many people want independence or even what these protests mean, despite mainstream media’s analyses. The BBC believes it is more populism than it is separatism, yet it is “leftist” Antifa forces who are calling for “occupation forces” to get out. If the Catalan referendum is about populist nationalism, then why is it a leftist cause? Here we clearly see the crisis of modern liberalism. Since the issue has been framed as one about “democracy”, one would be forgiven for believing that most Catalans want independence. The BBC says first that the vote in support of independence was nearly 90 percent, before going on to tell readers that turnout in the referendum was…just 42 percent. So what about the other 58 percent that did not vote? Any novice statistician (as well as marginal sociologist) might be able to explain that there may have been a social desirability bias in play; those who wanted to vote “no” may not have voted because a “no” vote was framed—by international media and celebrities—as one against “freedom” and “democracy”, among other things that no humanist individual could honestly be against. In fact, according to the BBC, a July 2017 “public survey commissioned by the Catalan government suggested 41% were in favour and 49% were opposed to independence [for Catalonia],” supporting the argument that the 58% percent of referendum abstainers were, in fact “no” voters.

 

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Catalans Calling Spanish Police “Occupation Forces”. Image Courtesy of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41479048

 

That so many Catalans should reject independence is telling. While it may be mind boggling for some to wrap their heads around, I believe there are many reasons that Catalans might reject independence from Madrid. First and foremost, geopolitically speaking, an independent Catalonia would make just one more insignificant nation-state carved out of a formerly significant nation-state. Once powerful states like Yugoslavia—and now Syria—have been torn apart by civil wars (encouraged or ignored by outside powers); it seems that what is happening in Catalonia is yet another example of this process, yet one done in a more civil manner. It is encouraged non-violently by the media rather than violently by international arms traders (please see my piece on globalization as a more humane form of imperialism for more on this topic).

 

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Is it “democracia” in Catalonia? …. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/10/02/pep-guardiola-condemns-decision-play-barcelona-vs-las-palmas/

 

_98097208_scoreboardempty.jpgOr a Showcase for International Capital (Like Rakuten, Beko, and Nike? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838

 

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Rakuten Takes (Literally) Center Stage as the Company Becomes Bigger Than The Sport. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838.

 

Secondly, economically speaking, an independent Catalonia would be far from an economic powerhouse. As a small nation—which would likely have poor relations with their neighbors Spain—an independent Catalonia would be beholden to international finance and/or the European Union for support. Perhaps that is why international media and celebrities are so keen on pushing for Catalan independence; with it the transnational visions of the European Union might be rekindled as yet another state will fall prey to the forces of predatory globalism (to borrow from Richard Falk). This may also be the reason that the European Union has been unable to deal with their own hypocrisy, as the New York Times notes in a typically biased piece:

 

Police officers in black RoboCop uniforms and Darth Vader helmets blocked ordinary citizens from voting. They beat people with batons, fired rubber bullets and wounded pensioners. All of it was captured by smartphones and news cameras and spread around the world. It is the kind of violence the European Union would ordinarily condemn in high moral terms and even consider punishing. But that was not so easy this time. The nation in question was one of its own: Spain.

 

The New York Times, like the BBC cited earlier, tries to connect the Catalan case to “nationalism” and “populism”, since these are verboten terms in the modern media narrative…yet this poor attempt to “frame” events also shows the hypocrisy—and illiberalism—of modern liberalism at the same time. A left-leaning news site, Slate, makes this contradiction even clearer in a piece written by Joshua Keating:

 

Over the past two weeks, two very different nations—Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia—have taken steps toward declaring themselves independent states. Both have been met with hostility by the countries they’re trying to split from, and indifference from the rest of the world. Both have sent a strong message to nationalists and secessionists around the globe: The established countries are an exclusive club that’s typically reluctant to admit new members. Both places have learned just how few advantages separatists have in breaking into that club.

 

In this comparison between Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia, Mr. Keating paints a sympathetic picture of the separatists since they are the are the underdogs to the nationalists. They are not part of the “established” and “exclusive” group of countries, they are “without privilege” in Sociological terms. These sentiments are, of course, a part of the politics of victimhood. Yet Mr. Keating continues his piece, describing Catalonia, with this sentence:

 

The level of political breakdown on display here [Catalonia] is something new and unprecedented for a Western European democracy in recent years.

 

It is almost as if Mr. Keating is unable to understand that Western European Democracies—as well the United States—have been fomenting this kind of “political breakdown” for years by encouraging the emergence of identity politics. Since the days of “self-determination”, proposed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Western democracies have pushed identity politics both at home and abroad as a way of garnering votes. Just a cursory look at voting charts in the United States shows just how important identity politics—particularly based on race and gender—are in determining voting patterns. It is unforgivable for a journalist (from a left-leaning website, no less) to be seemingly oblivious to the dangers of identity politics.

Thirdly, sociologically speaking, an independent Catalonia would be devastating. The new nation state would be one founded on division, as well as one that would be far from the inclusive vision of civic nationalism. In fact, an independent Catalonia would be one founded on racial and ethnic exclusion, Catalonia for the Catalans! It is my hope that ostensibly “liberal” onlookers take note; supporting division based on ethnic identity is as far from the “inclusive” vision of modern liberalism as it is from “civic nationalism”. If anything, it is reminiscent of the fascistic forms of ethnic nationalism that gave Europe two world wars in half a century.

Catalans and Madrid must come together and negotiate a better way forward together. This is not Brexit, where “together” (part of the slogan of the “remain” camp) meant the continuation of a transnational union at the expense of national sovereignty. In Spain, “together” means the Spanish nation state coming together to resist the forces of transnational globalism in support of national sovereignty. If there is any connection between these two events, it is the positions of “Leave” the EU and “no” to Catalonia as a republic. Nations can only be strong if they stay together and, most importantly, work together. Humanity cannot sustain being broken into smaller and smaller units, which—ironically—causes more division than it (supposedly) heals without alleviating the problem of domination (in the Foucauldian sense). Spaniards and Catalans are better off solving their issues and remaining united; with the alternative of the Syrian example (a conflict also framed in the name of “human rights” at the outset) close at hand, observers would do well to think about just how dangerous—and bloody—encouraging division really is.

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From Women’s Volleyball Uniforms to Colin Kaepernick: The Manufactured Divisions In Society As Seen Through Sports

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I was attending a Gender Sociology seminar at the University of Florida and the conversation turned—of all things—to the uniforms worn by the American Women’s Volleyball team at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Since I am more of a soccer fan I had not seen the uniforms in question at the time, but judging by some of the rhetoric in the class room I assumed they must have been quite offensive. In reality, they look like anything any person would be likely to see in any beach town in the United States. Essentially the uniform is a swimsuit, or a bikini.

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The “Uni” In Question. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/08/09/scant-gender-parity-in-uniforms-for-olympic-beach-volleyball/?utm_term=.2eeb23b6b967

My first reaction to the comments in the class was that “sex sells”. In our modern society where instant gratification is all that matters it seems that the amount of skin shown is directly proportionate to the amount of money made. Just as industrial football in soccer is a commodification of sport, then these uniforms can—in some way—be seen as a form of commodification of sport as well; they might be using physical beauty to sell sport. Which—while not my cup of tea—is in line with capitalism. One need only look at the pictures of soccer stars David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo to see that such cynical marketing affects men as well as women.

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Becks As a Sex Symbol. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.enstarz.com/articles/5367/20120815/david-beckham-underwear-ad-soccer-star-shows-off-body-in-latest-h-m-shoot-photos.htm

Marxist theory itself underlines that the development of capitalism changed the gender roles of men and women; as society shifted from the traditional to the modern egalitarian gender roles began to fade. Gender scholar Cecilia Ridgeway, writing in her book Framed by Gender (2011), explains that:

Under conditions of greater social and material resources, however, the desperate interdependence between the sexes is lessened somewhat, and the egalitarian balance between gendered spheres of influence might be difficult to sustain. With more available resources, the risk is greater that one sex will gain greater access to these resources, creating a tipping factor that consolidates specific gender status beliefs into a diffuse status belief that broadly advantages that sex over the other (Ridgeway 2011, 51).

Interestingly, the discussion about the volleyball uniforms was not in these terms. Instead it was seen as some sort of male dominance that made the women wear the uniforms; the prevailing opinion was that the Olympians were being made into sex objects. This made me curious, and I decided to look into the matter a little more. Many commentators mentioned the controversy over the uniforms, while the Washington Post wrote a strange opinion piece blasting the “scant gender parity” while praising Egypt’s choice of uniforms  (which to me is like comparing apples and oranges, but that is for another day).

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Egypt’s More Modest Uniforms. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/08/09/scant-gender-parity-in-uniforms-for-olympic-beach-volleyball/?utm_term=.2eeb23b6b967

What seems to be lost in much of the discussion, however, is the voice of the players themselves. It is easy to approach the topic with pre-existing biases and opinions, but to ignore conflicting points of view is no way to debate a controversial topic. One CBS story for instance, noted that women’s volleyball players have a choice of uniforms while men have no choice:

The women actually have a choice of what to wear while the men only have one option. The women can either wear a two-piece bikini, or they can wear a one-piece suit. The sport did used to only have the option of bikinis for women, but they changed the rule in 2012 be be more inclusive to other cultures and religions. The men only have one option: a tank top and shorts.

American star Kerri Walsh Jennings took to Twitter to reject the notion that the players were wearing bikinis to get better TV ratings. A useful piece by the Independent Journal Review gave reasons for why the U.S. women’s volleyball team continues competing in bikinis, using quotes from the players themselves. Misty May-Treanor, a gold medalist, said it simply in an interview with Slate: “We’re staying in our [bikinis]. I don’t see too many people changing. To each his own. If you get down to it, it’s about the sport and not what we’re wearing.” And that is precisely the argument that I make. By lowering the debate to such a base level and focusing on what women are wearing when playing volleyball it ignores what is really going on, you miss the focus on the sport and athletes involved. In order for true “equality” to exist people—male or female—should be scrutinized for their athletic prowess, not on what they are wearing. These kinds of debates, rather than furthering a “progressive” agenda (to use the term that is currently in vogue) in society, actually serve to be more regressive. Another example from the sports world can be given.

When the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers (an American football team), Colin Kaepernick, chose not to stand during the American national anthem before a preseason game in protest of racism, his actions elicited varied responses from all over the social spectrum. The president of the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colorped People) went so far as to compare him to Rosa Parks. Although I’m not sure how Ms. Parks would have viewed this comparison, it certainly shows how important people perceive Mr. Kaepernick’s actions to be, and players from other teams are planning to take part in other “demonstrations”.

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Colin Kaepernick. Image Courtesy of: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/49ers/2016/09/07/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-protest/89975464/

Unfortunately, it seems that—as with the women’s volleyball uniforms—things like this tend to increase, rather than decrease, the divide between different people. If it isn’t men and women being divided, then here it becomes blacks and whites.

Former NFL player Ray Lewis made a good point (albeit one that the author of the article, Will Brinson, doesn’t agree with) that the issue with Mr. Kaepernick’s protest is his focus on the flag. Mr Lewis said: “Listen I understand what you’re trying to do, but understand, take the flag out of it. I have uncles, I’ve got brothers, going into the military, that said I will never see you again. To understand that I will always respect that part of what our patriotism should be.” Focusing on the flag itself clouds the issue, and in a different way than Mr. Brinson would have you believe. He writes: “People yelling about whether protests should include the flag or feature the national anthem or whether a certain day is acceptable for protesting only cloud the waters further.” The flag is, for many, a symbol of unity—that we are all Americans. For others, it is a sign of Police brutality and even systemic racism. I understand that. But by focusing on the flag Mr. Kaepernick has made a lot of people upset—his own actions have led to the very “clouding of the waters” that Mr. Brinson blames not on the quarterback, but on his detractors instead. The perceived disrespect towards the flag and national anthem doesn’t solve the problems of racism in the United States; rather it just polarizes people further.

And we can see that in the attacks made on Mr. Kaepernick. There have been claims that his girlfriend, a Muslim, influenced him to protest social injustice. Mr. Kaepernick’s decision to focus on the flag has brought other issues out now that go way beyond the purpose of his original protest, in this case those of Islamophobia and gender equality. But his original message is lost. It is the “progressiveness” that sows division and—ironically—actually makes society regress.

This climate of racial division has led California State-Los Angeles University (CSLA) to debut segregated housing which will, among other things, “serve as a safe space for Black CSLA students to congregate, connect, and learn from each other” according to a list of demands from the CSLA Black Student Union. The freshman in the dorm are wary of calling it “segregation”, but the fact remains that Dr. Martin Luther King fought against the very concepts of “separate but equal” that CSLA’s policy represents! And sadly…other places are doing the same. The University of Connecticut will also have segregated housing this fall, while Oregon State and UC Berkeley are also sponsoring segregated events in what The Federalist rightly point out stems from a “far-Left [that] has found itself championing a toxic form of second-wave segregationism than only exacerbates division”. Even liberal civil rights leaders in the United States spoke against CSLA’s decision.

It is my hope that people stop focusing on differences so much that it stops them from seeing the similarities. People should not focus on the uniforms of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team to the extent that it overshadows their play; by creating a controversy out of nothing (the players seemed to take no issue with their uniforms), we end up doing the very thing we intended not to do: focusing on these women because of their gender. They are volleyball players, just like a male volleyball player. Focus on them for what they do in sports, not for what they wear. In the same vein, Mr. Kaepernick should not focus on the American flag when he makes his protest to the extent that people forget about his initial protest—it is about race relations, not about nationalism. If he wants true equality in the United States of America, he should know that it will not come by antagonizing those who believe that the flag (and anthem) hold real, emotional, meanings. Respect is a two-way street. A perceived insult to the flag overshadows—for others—the very things Mr. Kaepernick is protesting against and that creates even more of a splintering within society. Black or White, Male or Female, Christian or Muslim, people are people. By creating artificial divisions in society problems will not be solved. Rather, they will be exacerbated to the point that, fifty years on, segregation returns. It is a chilling reminder that blind “progressiveness” can have its unintended “blowback”; by not listening to the opposing sides in society we risk finding ourselves in an intractable situation that will only unravel further, like yarn on a spool.

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