MLS commissioner Don Garber waded into the always turbulent waters of social media -- specifically Twitter -- to do a question and answer session with a fun loving unruly mob of American soccer fans.
While a majority of the responses were fairly pedestrian, we did finally get a response to the Chivas USA story on HBO's Real Sports as Garber said he would be addressing the situation during a halftime interview at the MLS All-Star Game though on-going litigation will likely limit what he can say.
As you might expect there were a ton of questions related to future expansion, officiating and a nice mix of clever and plenty of unclever jokes.
Things got off a rough start as the first question Garber answered was from Sporting Kansas City owner Robb Heineman...that was tweeted 199 days ago:
Don did answer two tougher questions, specifically relating to Chivas USA and the SJ Ultras controversial banner concerning the on-going investigation into alleged attacks on a Portland Timbers fan back in April. His answers were pretty standard fare but he at least acknowledged both situations and promised that investigations and/or statements are coming.
Here was Garber's response to the multitude of questions about Chivas USA:
@Hisco5 We are proud of our zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and expect our owners and clubs to abide by our standards...— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
@Hisco5 as you know, I cannot comment further while the litigation is going on. But we are proud of our history in this area and want to ..— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
@Hisco5 assure our fans that we are deeply committed to diversity on and off the field— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
Garber also said that the league was aware of the banner displayed by the San Jose Ultras over the weekend:
As for future expansion Garber was expectedly tight-lipped offering up only friendly words of encouragement to fans from various cities who asked if they could expect an MLS team in the near future, including Orlando and Miami. Garber did say there are several potential ownership groups in Kansas City for All-Star week. He also made it clear that the no-stadium plan exemption for New York City FC appears to be an exception and not a sign of a new policy towards expansion teams.
. @JVL_5 Miami remains a potential new market. Need to ensure we have strong ownership, stadium and biz plan in place before proceeding— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
One hot button issues for MLS fans that did get a positive response is transparency related to various rules and regulations concerning the movement of players. Hopefully MLS will follow through on the plan Garber mentioned and make it easier for fans to understand how various mechanisms for the signing and transfer of players work.
. @luispena09 We need to do a better job with sharing player rules/regulations. Our Comm and Player groups are working on a plan.— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
Unfortunately this isn't the first time Garber has made statements like this and the information eventually released has been less than fulfilling at best. Don't get your hopes up.
If you were wondering what retention funds are, Garber explained them:
. @shebainpdx $ used to resign core players who have proven to be the top performers at their clubs. This $ does not count against the cap— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
Here are some other highlights from Monday's Q&A session.
On efforts to improve officiating in the league:
. @AdamNeizmik Lots. Formed Pro early this year. More training, more assessment, more professional refs, more accountability— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
On future TV and media negotiations:
. @pan_janet we are excited about our media future - - broadcast, digital, etc. Discussions start in the fall. Lots of interest.— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
Nothing new for New England Revolution fans who are desperate for a stadium of their own:
Garber's response to "what the hell happened to your hair?" was fun, but it was one of many softballs the commissioner answered including his preference for "cheese or pepperoni" pizza and his "favorite MLS memory":
. @petterdave age and a tough job!— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
. @jennabrom I'm a NYC guy. Cheese only— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
Garber was also amused by a New York Red Bulls fan who asked if they could ban him from the stadium.
. @JeffreyKleiman HA! No.— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) July 29, 2013
Good to see that despite having a tough job and having to deal with a tough and demanding fan base hasn't ruined Garber's sense of humor completely.
Despite there not be a great deal of substance to Garber's answers, it's still nice that him and other league officials are willing to at least engage with fans through social media. They're never going to be willing to go into too much detail but sometimes just being willing to spend a few minutes reading through questions can mean a lot to fans. It's certainly a level of accessibility we rarely see in professional sports these days.