Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS and someone who probably sees Three-card Monte dealers as role models, has decided that he now has enough power in American soccer to say and do whatever he pleases.
He made this clear when he arranged a teleconference with the press just to scold U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann for daring to say that MLS is anything less than Utopia for American footballers and demanding that he not do it again, like some kind of wannabe gangster (he does call himself “The Don” after all).
Now, as negotiations with the MLS Players Union over a new collective bargaining agreement draw near, Garber has decided to talk out of both sides of his mouth — telling critics like Klinsmann that MLS is stronger than an eagle named Max Sexmachine flying straight towards the sun while also telling the players that the league isn’t making money and couldn’t possibly pay them all enough to afford season tickets for their NFL team. And anyone who tries to root out the truth in his double talk will be met with unfiltered derision.
Garber demonstrated this tactic in an interview with ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle. Here’s Carlisle’s very first question of the interview and Garber’s snide response:
ESPN FC: You told The Associated Press [Tuesday] the league was losing $100 million combined every year. How much of that is at the team level and how much of that at the league headquarters level?
Don Garber: Good for you for asking, but I’m not going to break it down. I’ve been talking about it for a while. We’ve had some productive conversations [with the MLS Players Union]. They are aware of our financial position, and I look forward to continuing what I hope to be very productive discussions with them.
“Good for you for asking”! Who responds to the completely reasonable first question of an interview like that? Don’t want to reveal your league’s finances so you can strongarm your underpaid players later? Fine. But to do it in a supremely condescending fashion only makes you look more like the villain whose trying to hide something that’s clear for all to see.
Of course, with a commissioner who sees this an acceptable way to deal with the press, MLS has developed a transparency problem as too many inconsistent decisions are made behind closed doors with no explanation.
ESPN FC: You mentioned the league will be more transparent this year. How do you plan to do that?
Garber: We aren’t taking any steps today. What we are doing is recognizing that as our fan base grows and our league evolves, some of the rules that we have in place that have allowed us to achieve the success we have achieved today need to be more transparent to our fans who are asking for it and deserve to have exposure to it. In the offseason we are going to sit down with our competition committee and start thinking about ways that we could become more transparent. And I am committed as commissioner to achieve that goal.
Translation: We want to make people think we’re being more transparent while still doing whatever we want, whenever we want and we haven’t figured out how to do that yet.
There’s nothing else it could possibly mean. Because the easiest way to be more transparent is to BE MORE TRANSPARENT. No sitting down with the competition committee is necessary. Just explain stuff when you do it and everyone will be happy. Unless you’ve got something to hide. And more and more it seems Garber isn’t very good at hiding things, whether it be his disdain or his league’s inconsistencies.