Despite a call for his ouster, a junior soccer league official who had called the city’s adult soccer players Latino “illegals” retained his seat Thursday night. But another board member who had written to a newspaper about the comment was removed.
Board member Roger McClanahan, a computer analyst, told the Orange Junior Soccer Club that he is sorry for his racial statement and that “it was not my intention to offend any member of our club.”
The club voted to retain McClanahan, 44 to 24. But the board member who had called for his ouster, Herm Flores, was ejected in a 55-13 vote after several members said Flores had exaggerated what happened.
The statement occurred at a December meeting of the club’s board of directors. Flores, seeking reelection to the board, said the city’s adult soccer leagues supported him.
McClanahan, according to Flores and others who attended the meeting, then said: “We don’t need them. They’re all illegals.”
McClanahan also reportedly threatened to call immigration officials and have them “sweep all the (soccer) fields” while players were competing and deport them.
Others present said they interpreted McClanahan’s comments more as an attempt to discourage Flores, a longtime adversary, than to offend anyone.
Club president Howard Rush said McClanahan’s “mouth acted before his brain did. It wasn’t a good statement to make. It really was not.”
Flores contacted La Opinion, a Los Angeles Spanish-speaking newspaper, which published a story. In his letter to the paper, Flores wrote that he was “trying to expose racism in Orange.”
Some coaches said Thursday night that Flores had tried to blow the incident out of proportion.
Members of the 15-member board of directors said the incident almost destroyed the private club, which provides winter soccer for about 1,300 boys and girls ages 6 to 16, and its attempts to recruit more Latino youths into the program.
Thursday’s meeting of the club’s board and 86 voting coaches was called to resolve the festering problem, Rush said. Voting on the two board members’ status was voluntary.
“This was just getting out of hand,” Rush said. “We had to have an election to either keep them on or have them come off the board.”
After the vote, Flores said he would no longer coach with the league.
Club vice president Jo Ann Van De Langeryt said she does not think that McClanahan “meant it at all to offend the Mexican people. It flew out of his mouth before his brain kicked in. A lot of people said, ‘Oh, that’s Roger.’ He says things because he’s like that.
“But he did apologize the night he made the remarks to the audience. But by that time, Flores had already stomped out of the meeting.”
But soccer coach William Vasquez, who supports Flores, said: “The board wants to sweep this under the rug. Immediately after this happened, it was the board’s action to criticize Herm and not Roger. They wanted to punish Herm for making this public.”
Vasquez, who wrote to the board asking for McClanahan’s resignation, said the remark angered him not only because it was “improper and insulting” to the Latino community, but because no other board members confronted McClanahan about it on the spot.
McClanahan is a volunteer whose 14 years in charge of fund raising for the league often put him in contact with the city’s most influential people. He declined to comment on the uproar.
In his letter, Vasquez said that somebody in McClanahan’s position “shouldn’t be making statements that are so damaging and hostile to the whole community.”
“Most of the people on the board said, ‘Oh, that’s the way he is. That’s just Roger.’ He’s a big fund-raiser for the league, so they weren’t going to do anything about it,” Vasquez said.