Estevez on Racism in Soccer
We asked FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez about the racist incident in the Red Bulls/San Jose match and how he and the squad address such situations proactively.
On Saturday, the San Jose Earthquakes and New York Red Bulls match had a whopping 20 minutes of extra time as a Red Bulls player, Dante Vanzeir, used a racial slur during the match.
Much confusion and conversation unfolded in the middle of the game between referees, coaches, and players on how to proceed, causing a ripple of disappointment from those on the field and those fans watching.
This week, Major League Soccer announced a suspension for Vanzeir for six games plus additional stipulations, which were not disclosed. While some questions swirled about what was actually said, especially on social media, more pointedly, there was a strong outpouring of frustration over how Red Bulls coaches and MLS officials handled what transpired. Why not sub the player immediately? Why doesn’t Major League Soccer have a plan of action in anticipation of these kinds of things, especially when the organization has espoused anti-racist stances and values? Will there be fines against Red Bulls Head Coach Gerhard Struber?
Credit to Quakes player Jeremy Ebobisse for speaking directly to the media about his disappointment and anger over the incident after the game.
Major League Soccer is still investigating the incident. No doubt, there will be more scrutiny of MLS’s handling and response in the days to come.
I asked FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez to weigh in, on whether these kinds of incidents bring up discussion in the locker room and how the team and staff think about plans of action if they face a similar situation.
“It is sad that these things are still happening with how the world is multicultural. We are all brothers and sisters and family. It is sad that these things are still happening,” Nico said to reporters. “One of the things that we built from the beginning - openness to talk about many things. We have been very proactive in trying to represent FC Dallas in the community and inspire young people. It is something that we talk about, not daily, but when it is the moment, we do. When we celebrate MLK Jr, we spend our moments and review things that he did. We try to make everyone aware who he was and what he did for the country. It is really important as coaches and players that we can have an open conversation so we can impact society and the community. We have players who are proactive on these things, and we want to help them and learn from them.”
I have personal questions too about what transpired. For one, it shouldn't be on coaches alone to try to figure out what to do in the heat of the moment.
Are referees and MLS officials equipped with protocols for how to address these situations and how to deal with coaches who may disagree with the league handling of the situation?
What kind of onboarding happens to new signings in the league to proactively make clear the league’s values and particular history of racism in North America?
Who decides what punishment is acceptable and how does that relate to other common disciplinary actions on the field? I.e. does a player get a longer suspension for kicking a ball at a player’s head or using a racial epithet? Can players criticize or provide feedback about those decisions?
Certainly, I echo Nico’s frustration that this is tolerated on any level, and in particular, the Red Bulls head coach should face extra scrutiny for continuing to play the involved member of his team. There is work ahead for Major League Soccer to be a leader in stamping out racism in the modern game.
What are your questions about what happened?