With MLS putting a strong emphasis on becoming a league dedicated to tolerance and equality, the spotlight has been shined on multiple on the field events where a player has crossed the line and been punished by the league. This week we've seen a new type of event that provides a much different challenge for the league and one club.
Instead of an isolated comment caught on camera we saw a supporters group cross the line with two horrible tweets. While the majority of reactions were fine, there were incidents of other fans crossing the line themselves in order to score some points.
The Twitter feed of Brickwall Firm, a Houston Dynamo supporters group, sent out two homophobic tweets -- one on Sunday night and one Monday morning -- that caused a wave of public shaming on social media and calls for both the Dynamo and MLS to deal swiftly with the SG.
The tweets have been deleted, replaced by an apology, but here is what was orginally posted.
"[Landon] Donovan is a faggot. Brickwall don't give a shit about PC."
"For the record, Brickwall loves homosexuals ... but hate faggots. If that offends you, you're probably a faggot."
Unlike the incidents involving Colin Clark, Marc Burch and Alan Gordon, the situation isn't a clear cut and easy for MLS to deal with since they can't simply suspend an SG three games and send them to sensitivity training. The question has even been thrown out as to whether the league or the Dynamo can really do anything as the statements were made outside the stadium on a social media account.
I don't buy into that line of thinking especially since the group is one of several featured on the Dynamo's website. By promoting the group, the Dynamo have pinned themselves into a bit of a corner and were forced to address and deal with the incident by releasing an initial statement yesterday afternoon.
According to a story today in the Houston Chronicle, Dynamo team president Chris Canetti was made aware of the tweets shortly before 11am and received a call from the league office a bit later expressing their concerns. Canetti met with leaders from the Brickwall Firm and said that any discipline against the group would be determined during additional meetings over the next couple days.
In many ways though the damage is already done because apparently one individual with access to the official Twitter account of the group decided to send out not just one tweet with a homophobic slur, but to double down the next morning by trying to claim comedic use as an excuse and using the slur again twice. It was flimsy backtracking at best and outright bigotry at worst. While other members of the group probably don't like it, the entire SG has now been marked.
They lost control of their Twitter account and while the group as a whole might feel overwhelmed by the outpouring of negative reactions, every group, organization or company is ultimately responsible for the things said publicly on social media platforms. While the overall group likely doesn't agree with those tweets, they are still responsible for who they allow to be representing them in the public arena.
While one person is likely guilty for the specific infraction, the entire group is responsible for the repercussions. They now have to deal with the public shaming that followed, the snarky comments on Twitter and the jokes from a small minority of other fans that used the opportunity to make wide ranging generalizations about the Dynamo organization and the City of Houston.
I'm not going to name names but I will paraphrase a few of the comments that appeared on social media in reaction to the two tweets. In my opinion reactions like the ones paraphrased below in no way help to deal with the situation and are simply an excuse for other rival fans to pile on and exacerbate the situation even more. In many ways, they crossed the line too with their behavior.
There were attacks on the Dynamo: "Your team lacks class."
There were attacks towards the group that used sexism: "What did I miss from those vaginas?".
There were attacks on the City of Houston who elected an openly gay mayor: "Just your typical ignorant Houston gaybashing".
There's public shaming and then there are comments like those above, that while limited in scope, do nothing to further the discussion and just reek of petty trash talking.
There's nothing wrong with banter between fans concerning the teams they support but how are keyboard warriors using an already ugly situation as a chance to make more ugly statements beneficial at any level?
The answer is that it's not, but sadly, it's to be expected in murky depths the social media backwater.
There will always be people that chant and sing songs when players or coaches are accused/convicted of serious crimes, there will always be people that go beyond exercising their concern about statements like the ones made on the Brickwall Twitter and use it as a chance to make themselves and their friends laugh.
There will always be ugliness and while the severity of the statements might not be on par with using homophobic slurs, there were still plenty of people crossing the line yesterday in other ways.
It's another example that while tremendous strides in the right direction have been made, there's still a lot of work to be done to truly make MLS a league where no one, at any level of involvement, crosses the line.