Chivas USA issued a news release Wednesday defending the club’s ethnic mix and expressing disappointment over those who would criticize it.
Only problem was, the release never said who was criticizing the team and why.
A team spokeswoman later confirmed that the statement was issued in response to a Tuesday segment on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” that focused on a lawsuit that two former Chivas coaches had filed against the team claiming discrimination and wrongful termination.
The coaches, Daniel Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos, charged the team with racism, claiming they were fired in March partly because they were not Latino and did not speak Spanish.
"One of the biggest strengths we have at Chivas USA is the talented and dedicated employees that make up our community, in which diversity prevails by having different nationalities, cultures and beliefs,” the release began. “Therefore, we are disappointed by the intend [sic] of some individuals who have chosen to use our diversity to define our club as a racist and discriminatory environment by reporting an incomplete and one-sided story in order to damage the image of Chivas USA and the hard-working individuals who are part of our community.”
The HBO report also talked about Chivas USA’s stunningly rapid fall from grace, from a Major League Soccer playoff team in 2009 to one that went 14 matches and 3½ months without a win this season. The team also has the lowest attendance in MLS, no TV contract and no stadium of its own.
One reason for the team’s steep decline is the decision of new majority owner Jorge Vergara to tie the team more closely to Chivas of Guadalajara, the iconic Mexican league team he also owns. The Mexican Chivas is best known for having never used a non-Mexican player and Vergara has tried to turn MLS team into a pipeline of talent for that team, scouting young Mexican American players in Southern California while remaking Chivas USA’s roster.
Last year the team had one player who would have fit Chivas of Guadalajara’s strict nationality laws. This year the team has 17.
Wednesday’s news release, in addition to never mentioning HBO, does not address any of the charges in the report. But it does say, “At Chivas USA we are all part of the same Red-and-White colors and ideology, which strives for both personal and professional fulfillment on and off the field. We absolutely reject any form of discrimination and racism.” It closes with a quote for H.G. Wells: “Our true nationality is mankind.”
HBO responded to Chivas USA’s news release, with Ray Stallone, who works in HBO’s media relations department, saying “We stand by our reporting.”