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The slow response of US football to a delegate’s views on slavery has been worrying
The association is saying the right things to fight racism, but those intentions have not been enough so far. Seth Jahn was a well-known figure in US football. Photo: Valerie Macon / AFP / Getty Images The US Football Association is not what it thinks. The association stood in line to give itself a pat on the Saturday following its annual general meeting, posting nifty videos of new efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. The climax was to be the lifting of a controversial policy that forced US players to stand during the national anthem. Instead, after a racist uproar from a delegate during the anthem policy vote, it has become apparent just how much work US football has to do to become the forward-thinking organization its leaders believe is right. The delegate, Seth Jahn, has already been stripped of his position on the council, but deeper and more pressing questions remain for US football, which has not done enough to quell criticism of the creation of a culture of exclusion. Jahn’s utterances, imprecise and flammable as they were, don’t deserve supplemental oxygen, but in a nutshell: The issue was whether athletes are allowed to kneel during the national anthem, and Jahn went on for a largely unrelated seven minutes in a tirade that ended up dealing with black slavery in the United States wasn’t really that big of a deal. His speech was devoted almost entirely to rejecting oppression against black Americans. In other words, it was racist. The problem is, US Soccer officials did not seem to realize this and did not react accordingly. In a press conference following the meeting, CEO Cindy Parlow Cone and the association’s CEO Will Wilson said they had not heard all of Jahn’s comments due to technical issues. When a reporter found that Jahn’s speech contained a lot of white supremacist talking points, Parlow Cone reiterated that she hadn’t heard, but added, “It’s important to listen to different pages, whether it’s convenient or not, but it there is absolutely no room for racist comments. “It was hardly the condemnation that was needed at that moment. To be fair, Parlow Cone and Wilson probably haven’t heard all of Jahn’s comments. Due to Covid, U.S. football held its annual general meeting remotely for the first time, and even during the press conference, Parlow Cone and Wilson struggled to hear each other. But the press conference took place almost two hours after the meeting ended, and there was plenty of time for someone – anyone in US football – to brief them. Somehow no one felt compelled to flag the racist speech so that it could be properly condemned. (By Monday night, Parlow Cone and Wilson had not responded after hearing the full speech.) A few hours later, US football issued a written statement calling the meeting “successful,” but saying, “There is no place for Racists Comments in Any Form ”reflecting Parlow Cone’s lukewarm response and failing to recognize the mistake of labeling an event that involved a racist controversy as“ successful ”. US Soccer is quick to note that as a membership organization, it has no say in who joins its community – and its members are overwhelmingly white men, some of whom may share Jahn’s beliefs. The members, who come from national soccer associations or other groups such as adult amateurs and deaf athletes, elect their own representatives to attend the general meeting. But Jahn wasn’t just a random delegate. He was known to the members of the association as he was responsible for the safety of several national teams over the years, including the USWNT at the World Cup in France. Although he stopped working for U.S. football in 2019, he got close enough to some of the players on the men’s national team that they hung out outside of work. His views seemed no secret even while working for US football. Twitter activities go back years and show racist, threatening, transphobic and Islamophobic tendencies. Whether or not he shared his beliefs at work, it is hard to believe that at least some US football employees or players did not know and tolerate them. After US football weakly condemned his statements, Jahn issued an apology on Sunday saying he had received “overwhelming (sic) support” from “a number of members of the association”. A federation spokesman declined to comment on Monday, but that should be the federation’s main concern. If there are others in US football who share the same alienating views, any DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion – efforts are doomed to failure. Some US footballers seem to feel that Jahn’s racist views are not widely held by others in the association. However, it is up to the federation to find out, rather than accept, and then take steps to eradicate racism. After all, as Americans are increasingly learning, it is not enough not to be racist while there is still racism. Just being anti-racist can ensure ideas like the one Jahn shared don’t fester. Jahn insists he didn’t say anything racist, an argument that will convince some because his speech may not be what everyone thinks of racist language. Rather, his views are more insidious. Shortly after the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, Jahn shared a photo of himself in a room full of guns and joked about waiting for Antifa, which he signed: “Stay dangerous, stay buckled my friends.” Christian Pulisic, the USMNT’s best player and a man who will most likely be one of the faces of the team when the US host the 2026 World Cup together, clicked the “Like” button. We already know that US soccer leaders like Parlow Cone don’t share Jahn’s views. She headed the indictment of overturning the anthem policy, which Jahn rejected in his speech, and she has specifically said that she did so because it was wrong to silence peaceful protests against racial oppression. Parlow Cone comes from a military family and has announced that she will stand up for the anthem, but she has also expressed regret for not understanding the struggles of her black and brown counterparts. Since Wilson and Parlow Cone took over the reins last year, they have been behind US Soccer’s new DEI initiative – undoubtedly a positive step. The initiative was launched last year after the death of George Floyd and is intended to include new measures such as diversity training for employees. Members of the Federation’s DEI Council say the goal is to completely transform the culture of US football. But obviously they’re not even close yet. How can the association tackle its longstanding diversity problems on the ground if it cannot even tackle them internally? The leaders of the Federation have said the right things to correct shortcomings, but those words sound hollow after this final mess. When US football – which despite the diversity of the sport has been predominantly white for decades – believed that it could congratulate itself on the further development by officially repealing anthem politics, it was subjected to a tough reality test. As Megan Rapinoe told the Guardian ahead of the anthem policy vote, there is no end to the work of US football. “There is no finish line,” said Rapinoe. “There’s no such thing as“ We did it, and now we’re done. ”This is something we could never all do enough to cope with, so it’s just a matter of constantly understanding and realizing where You did something wrong where you did harm, acknowledge it and apologize for it, and then work towards a better future that takes everyone into consideration. “She added,” There is no media satisfaction about it. You almost never achieve Your goal and you are never done with it. Having that in your DNA is the most important thing. “As a first step in healing, the association scheduled a call to all staff on Tuesday to discuss what happened. Become the leaders of US Soccer likely to say the right things again to learn and do better, and they will likely mean it. So far, as sincere and heartfelt as they have been, those intentions have simply not been fulfilled not enough. If US football is to be the organization insiders believe it really is, serious action must be followed – and it must continue to follow.
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