Drawing a line in the stands: Leroux, Day 2

Yesterday’s Sydney Leroux saga had a few predictable outcomes. Late in the day, we heard Leroux wasn’t specifically talking about the game in Toronto on Sunday — in fact, she says the atmosphere there was great! “A positive step forward for women’s soccer,” even.

Of course, by then, it was too late for the Toronto crowd. Many of the mainstream media stories on the web have been updated with Leroux’s clarification — she was talking about an older game in Vancouver, plus Twitter — but a lot of headlines still reflect what her tweet implied: The crowd in Toronto was using racist chants against her.

To respond to one of yesterday’s comments — I don’t see such accusations as “minutiae.” I’d rather be called a bleepity-bleep whatever than a racist. I’ve been called a racist before. It hurts. It cuts to your soul. It is not an accusation to be tossed around lightly and then say, “Oh, I meant those OTHER guys.”

So that’s one lesson learned, and it’s one of many excellent points in Richard Whittall’s column, “Some lessons from the Leroux saga.”

Another lesson is aimed squarely at Canadian fans, in response to attitudes like this:

I’m not going to walk around asking Canadian players what they think of their fans tossing out the c-word and b-word. They shouldn’t have to confront this themselves. Those of us with Y chromosomes should simply know better.

As Whittall put it:

That the rest of the world has set a low bar in acceptable bounds of player abuse isn’t a great reason for Canadian or American fans of womens soccer to do the same.

I’m also still befuddled by people trotting out the notion that this sort of thing happens in men’s soccer all the time, so there’s some sort of double-standard in place. “Balotelli does it” is one of those arguments. Yes, and Balotelli is one the most controversial, if not the most reviled, soccer players in the world.

Europe offers plenty of soccer traditions to emulate. Balotelli’s behavior and fans hurling sexist epithets aren’t among them. Or maybe one day we’ll end borrowing another European tradition — forcing teams to play in empty stadiums.

So, moving forward, we can hope Leroux will quit throwing gasoline on the fire with poorly chosen celebrations and poorly focused accusations. She has made plenty of enemies of non-racist, non-abusive Canadian fans who may have defended her in the past.

But as fans, we all need to take a step back and think about the limits of our fan passions. The Voyageurs immediately spoke out against racism, and that’s terrific. It’s not, however, the end of the conversation about what’s acceptable in the stands.

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

13 thoughts on “Drawing a line in the stands: Leroux, Day 2”

  1. Keep kicking a dog and eventually it’ll bite you. Keep taunting a player and eventually they’ll taunt back. Canadians knew what would happen were Sydney to score against them – they had all but guaranteed it with their constant prodding of her, even the Canadian media, which constantly asks her about her decision, keeping the issue at the forefront of people’s minds. This feigned outrage is really all about them witnessing that they’re not in the same soccer class as the US yet, despite their effort in the Olympic semis.

    Oh, and in regards to “U-Sector” saying that Beau doesn’t get to decide what’s appropriate at their stadium? No, he doesn’t, common sense and decency do. And fans disparaging Leroux because of her decision (didn’t hear anyone taunting Quon) or her ethnicity is out of lines. They know she has an American father, they know the rules for declaring a senior international squad, and they know that several Americans have suited up for Canada before, so any ugly comments are certainly in violation of any standard of decency. Boo her shirt all you like, but respect the person.

  2. I was at BMO on Sunday just below the mass US supporters section. There were a few others sporting US gear near us but most were Canadian. I never heard anything but boos and the Judas chant. I did hear someone commenting that someone else’s children who were booing were “well-trained”. While I’m not personally a fan of booing for any reason, it is relatively harmless. I didn’t hear anything racist or any expletives but that was just near me. Not getting why people are thinking Judas chanting is racist. It simply refers to betrayal. At any rate, if the point was to get under her skin, it worked. If the point was to throw her off her game, it clearly has not. Sports fans seem to love drama so I doubt this is going away anytime soon. And with the uncharacteristically subpar performance by the Canadian team on Sunday for a match that was built up to such great levels, this was the perfect outlet for frustration.
    On the subject of her celebration: why was it a yellow? People have been doing both the shushing motion and calling attention to one’s crest for quite a while and I’m not aware of that normally being a cardable offense. I don’t think she did either excessively. People may disagree with the level of class but I still don’t think it was a card. Just my $.02.

  3. @endubs_rn: the one thing I would say in response to your experience at the match is to not be so quick to think that what you heard was all that was being said – your experience isn’t necessarily the same as anyone else there. I’ve seen this time and again surrounding Leroux where attendees will claim that they didn’t hear what the players claimed they heard (same with Hope Solo and Boston crowds). It may well be that the only chants in your area were Judas and Boos, but remember, you’re only one out of around 20,000 at the stadium. The chances of there being something more insidious being said out of your earshot – especially near Leroux – are pretty high, and not at all unbelievable.

    1. That’s what I was trying to say but perhaps didn’t say it clearly enough. I meant that I didn’t personally hear it in my section and took it to mean there weren’t entire stadium chants. I don’t know whether anything racist was said/yelled at Leroux that day. I hope that it wasn’t but wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

  4. I was at the game in Toronto. I was in the second row of the upper deck at mid field. I had a great time. Met some great fans of both teams. Bought some beers for the Canadian fans in the row in front of me, and they bought me some too. I personally did not hear any racist chants. I also didn’t hear any racist single outbursts. Of course I can’t hear everything in the stadium but only what goes on around me. I did hear the Canadian Fan section chanting a bunch of stuff that surprised me, but I am not easily offended and I curse quite a bit in normal conversation. Individual fans around me did shout some rude stuff, b*tch, c*nt, traitor, etc. Could a fan or fans have said something racist that Sydney heard, surely. Only the people close to the person who said it and Sydney would have been able to hear it. It surely was not organized chanting.

  5. @endubs_m: thanks for clarifying. One thing that seemed clear to me from watching the match, and hearing reactions afterwards, was that the issue was never about large groups of fans – much less the entire stadium – chanting racist or vile things. However, there seem to be a lot of commentators, some of them professional journalists, jumping on Leroux for claiming that there were racist epithets being shouted at her. I’m not sure why they seem to be more certain than Leroux of what was being said (especially if it was a small handful of people close to the field), but it comes off to me as people being uncomfortable with the idea of racism in the women’s game and wanting to sweep it under the rug rather than admit it could be happening (and, again, I noticed a similar reaction after Hope Solo’s accusations about crowds in Boston – “oh, she shouldn’t say that” and “it’s an unfair claim to make” or “it’s just Hope being Hope”). All the evidence since Leroux’s declaration to play for the US points to the probability being fairly high that she has been the target of very vile speech (as Norcen99’s account supports) – even racism – and I’ve no reason to believe that she isn’t being truthful about it.

  6. I’m going to tell you Sydney has been taking all this abuse since 2008!!! If you want to go to Canadian Voyaguer forum and look up U20, Whitecaps 2012 it started back then. Don’t worry if they erase it I printed copies, but lots of the comments were removed. Sydney didn’t expect the media to jump on her tweet and start a war between Canada and the USA. She was finally fighting back. I read the tweets sent to her, I’ve read the blogs, I’ve been at the games listening to all the booing, the name calling. It’s not right for anyone to have to endure what Sydney has gone through. If it were your daughter, sister, wife, or family member I think it would change how you treat someone. The commentators should be accountable for the problems they started for Sydney. She wasn’t disrespecting Canada she was answering back to the fans that have taunted her for years. Finally she got the chance. She showed pride in her decision. No one should judge or criticize her actions after all the abuse this young athlete has taken. You all seem to know why she left? You seem to know everything but you have no clue. I know cause I’m her mother.
    People ask, why is she just complaining now? She didn’t plan on complaining she was finally fighting back with her tweet and the media jumped on it and went crazy. I asked her to complain and she said no she didn’t want problems!! The problems are the media? Actually no one should take this abuse it’s called bullying and it has to stop.
    Comments that Canada trained her? I’m sorry she wasn’t with the national program long enough to take all the credit. She had a great coach called Sebatian Munoz that trained her growing up. She had a good relationship with Ian Bridge and he tried to keep her in Canada. But she had a plan and took a chance.
    We have never put down the federation. It’s not the federation that can stop the racist comments it’s just sick people that don’t know any better. We don’t blame the Canadians we blame the ignorant people and they are everywhere. But for Sydney these people taunting her are from Canada. I’m surprised how people take her decision to heart or are they just trouble makers? Who really cares? It was her decision like the American players playing for Canada. Good for them to leave and play for Canada if that’s what they have to do to make the higher level and they have dual citizenship. Why do these people care about my daughter so much? How many athletes go to the States and get their schooling paid for? That’s alright?
    This is Sydney’s and my decision and leave it at that. Who cares! She made the right decision, no turning back so everyone should move forward. Canada will get a few more players out of the American system and they will never get the backlash like my daughter. I’m sure your all going to jump on me I’d much rather it be me then Sydney so fly at it. No matter what I say I’m going to get the backlash. But please if I was heard and people respect our decision I’ve accomplished something. Sydney accomplished so much with determination and passion for this game. Why do people have to hate someone for doing that? I could go on and on
    but if you need to know more I’m willing to answer. Good night.

    1. Sandi – kudos to Sydney for going after her dreams and to you for supporting her choice. It’s sad that people devote so much energy to negativity. The problem is that most of these people only continue to target someone if there is a reaction. I can’t even fathom the depths of the emotions you both must feel in response to the hateful garbage they spew. Unfortunately, each acknowledgement of their hate, even through a gesture affirming that she made the right decision for her, incenses them further and fuels their hateful fire. I admire the strength that you both must have to channel the frustration and not constantly explode. Please know that for every jackass who runs his/her mouth (often hiding behind a computer or in a large crowd), there are thousands who support you and Sydney for chasing dreams and making them come true for you and so many others who support you.

  7. Sandi — First of all, welcome to the blog. Second, I think you’re preaching to the converted, at least to some extent. The people who have issues with Sydney’s decision to play for the USA aren’t here. I don’t have any assumptions about her decision — if I had to guess, I’d say she simply wanted to play for a country she loved and a team that has always been one of (and often THE) best in the world. I understand Canada’s frustration with that, and I’m not surprised their fans root against her, but that doesn’t excuse the sanctimonious commentators, let alone the idiots who abuse her on Twitter.

    I think the issues here are:

    1. The celebration itself. I think it was a bad idea that poured fuel on a fire, but I know I have the benefit of hindsight, and I can’t fully relate to the emotions she felt in the heat of the moment. I don’t think it’s the end of the world, anyway, though a few conciliatory comments about Canada soon afterwards would have helped soothe some raw nerves.

    2. The “racist chants” Tweet. At the time she posted, her Tweet clearly implied that she heard organized (“chant”) racist comments in Toronto. In the hours between that Tweet and her clarification, a lot of damage was done. Headlines move quickly. Late clarifications are often missed. So there are a lot of fans in Toronto who have been unfairly labeled as racist, and that’s not a pleasant feeling. I know Sydney wasn’t acting with malice — it’s just a lesson to be learned about how quickly things spread.

    3. Sexist language. Sydney didn’t do or say anything about this. It’s an issue for some fans and commentators in Canada who seem to think certain words are OK, and we just don’t understand it in the USA because of a cultural difference. That’s totally wrong, and I think people in the USA AND Canada are speaking up as they should.

    Best of luck to Sydney. I’ve interviewed her after a couple of NWSL games this season, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations.

  8. Like I said earlier she wasn’t reporting it to anyone nor was the tweet intended to be a report or a cry for help. The night after the game her twitter got so bad I’m sure when she woke she had enough and tweeted back with anger. Who would have known all hell would break loose? The fans that haven’t called her these names don’t have to feel guilty of anything and the ones that have don’t care or they wouldn’t do it. You must have seen the tweets that have been posted I don’t need to repeat. Oh back to the celebration come on its not new to the game. If that’s all she did and they turned it into a crime. But it’s alright for them throwing all the c___ b_____f____ bombs in front of little children that look up to these athletes is accepting. I read a blog where a fan was at the game and he said he didn’t mind the booing but when he heard the racist things being yelled at her he didn’t go for that. That was on June 2 before Syd tweeted! So I guess those words were said at the game. There were some sick chants in Vancouver they even started a new forum for sydney . This is the first blog I joined but next for me is to sportsnet when I get home they need to be accountable for their comments.

  9. So I’ve deleted a whole bunch of comments relating to one misunderstanding and one misanthrope.

    Greg, if you have any objections to what I’ve deleted, please let me know. I think your last comment actually summed up your thoughts pretty well — after that, it was just you and I disagreeing about them. I think the facts are well established by now, and there’s no need for me to take issue with what you’ve posted.

  10. No problem with it at all. I think it’s for the best if it was attracting comments like the one from the final poster.

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