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HBO Real Sports segment puts spotlight on charges of racial discrimination by Chivas USA

Chivas USA Starting Lineup


The HBO program Real Sports sent shockwaves through Major League Soccer on Tuesday night with the airing of their segment on Chivas USA and claims of racial discrimination being aimed at the club.

The program interviewed former Chivas USA youth coaches Dan Calichman and Teddy Chronopoulous, who have filed a lawsuit against the club for allegedly being fired because they weren’t Mexican or Mexican-American.

The program focused on changes at the club that took place after Jorge Vergara took full ownership of the club last fall, with Calichman, Chronopolous and the mother of a former Chivas USA youth player both offering examples of instances of what they considered to be discriminatory practices. Among the practices was having all employees and players (including youth players) fill out questionnaires including information on the ethnicity of their parents.

D.C. United defender James Riley, one of the many players to leave Chivas USA after last season, was also interviewed and stated that he believes the reason he was traded was because he is not Mexican or Mexican-American.

Chivas USA had former player, and former Mexican National Team legend, Francisco “Paco” Palencia speak for the club for the segment in an interview that was, at times, uncomfortable and ended abruptly with Palencia offering little explanation for the accusations levied at the club.

Palencia struggled to provide answers and explanation for the charges being levied against Chivas USA in his Real Sports interview, but he did speak out on Tuesday night about the charges of discrimination being aimed at the club. Palencia spoke to ESPN Deportes program Futbol Picante about the charges against Chivas USA, and staunchly defended the club:

“Our captain is one hundred percent American. The best player from our academy is North American. We are happy with him and are certain he will play for the (U.S. Men’s National Team). That is all we look for. Our posture in the United States is to bring the best players so the team can improve,” Palencia told Futbol Picante.

“There are Mexican Americans, Colombians, Ecuadorians and Americans,” Palencia added. “One of our trainers is Irish. We recent added Carlos Bocanegra, who was captain of the United States. These accusations have no foundation.

“One of our directors is Dutch,” Palencia added. “I don’t know from where they want to dramatize this theme in order to magnify it and turn into a negative theme. We are calm at Chivas USA, and the only thing we want is people of quality, and we want changes, but our goal isn’t to Mexican-icize the team.”

MLS officials declined requests for on-camera interviews for the HBO Real Sports segment, but commissioner Don Garber did issue the following statement to Real Sports:

“We are well aware of the allegations made by ex-players and employees of Chivas USA.   MLS has zero tolerance for discrimination or prejudice of any kind and have been deeply committed to diversity and fairness on our fields, in our stadiums and in our workplace. We are proud of our record in those areas and expect our owners and clubs to live up to the League’s high standards.  And although the allegations in this lawsuit raise serious issues, it would not be appropriate for us to say anything more while the litigation is ongoing.”


What did you think of the program? Shocked by the allegations? Think Chivas USA is in serious trouble? See MLS stepping in, or do you think recent changes at Chivas USA can be taken as a sign that the club has learned from its mistakes?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. For what its worth, there are teams throughout the football world that have explicit policies to recruit players from certain areas and/or ethnicities. I’m specifically talking about:

    — Atletico Bilbao of Spain, which continues, to this day, to only recruit players from the Basque Region
    — the two Glasgow teams, Rangers and Celtic, which until recently played only Protestant and Catholic players respectively

    In saying this, I am not condoning the policy (and I’m not well-versed in the legalise of the possible problems with this policy under U.S. law); I’m simply letting people know that it is not uncommon.

    • I can’t speak toward the religious aspect of Celtics and Rangers, but in terms of Bilbao it’s actually called “cantera policy.”

      It means quarry in Spanish and is actually less discriminatory than it seems from afar. It started as a business model policy of only developing local talents in the team’s academy to promote the game and its development in that area. There is no case for ethnicity or language–only that you are from that specific area.

      It’s like the Galaxy academy only recruiting out of LA or the Fire academy only allowing development of players in their region.

      Both La Masia and La Fabrica (Real Madrid) use the same policies as Bilbao–only Bilbao carried it all the way to their senior team.

      Canteras are credited with the production of the Spanish golden generation to accompany the tactical acumen of tiki-taka.

    • You’re wrong about Celtic and Rangers. Heck, Bedoya and Bocanegra were with Rangers until recently, do you think they are Protestant?

      • Given that Rangers have been around for oh about 140+ years and their first non Prodestant player was signed in1989, I would agree that “recently” would be accurate.

  2. My question is about the structure of MLS’s single entity.
    If Chivas is on the losing end of a massive lawsuit, is that money coming out of Jorge’s pocket or is it MLS?

    Also, asking children to identify (prove?) their bloodline is a more than a little gross

    • No. “Reverse discrimination” is as illegal as the traditional kind unless it’s part of a defined plan to correct a “manifest imbalance” in the inclusiveness of the workforce. And you can’t rely on an affirmative action plan to fire someone.

  3. Many have missed the point of the discrimination issue here. Chivas could have fielded 30 guys named Dan Kennedy but fired/cut one person because of ethnicity and they have violated the law. It’s irrelevant how many gringos are on the team currently.

  4. I don’t support discrimination and would love to see some drastic changes at Chivas, but there is some gray here.

    In employment discrimination law in the United States, employers are generally allowed to consider characteristics that would otherwise be discriminatory if they are bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ). For example, a manufacturer of men’s clothing may lawfully advertise for male models. This is the position Hooters take for hiring only female waitresses.

    Race can never be a BFOQ, but the First Amendment overrides BFOQ in artistic works where race is integral to the story or for artistic purpose. This let’s you hire models and actors based on race.

    Chivas USA could argue that soccer is entertainment and the Chivas USA story is one of Hispanic players.

      • Ah…the “no they can’t/yes they can/no they can’t/yes they can/no they can’t/yes they can/no they can’t/yes they can/no they can’t/yes they can” style of argument.

        Kickin’ it Old School/Grade School…coool.

      • Sure they can. They can argue anything they want. The concept that race can never be a factor in hiring is wrong, the major exception being being the entertainment industry. But I do appreciate your deep insights.

      • Yes you’re right, they can argue whatever they want. However, they can’t argue that and win. I guess I should have been slightly less pithy in my last comment.

      • Actually–he is right even though he didn’t mean it the way he said it.

        Legally–that is not an argument they can use. They have public partnerships through their lessee agreement for taxpayer land–they cannot use that argument.

    • bml …

      From what I remember reading in previous article on this topic, Chivas USA do not justify there player selection by BFOQ. They justify their selections for “soccer reasons”, which makes employment discrimination (for the squad players) very hard to prove.

    • These are soccer coaches. Their occupational requirement is to teach soccer skills, not to “be Mexican.”

      Actors are literally hired to “be Mexican” (or white, black, Indian, etc.). That’s why you can put out a casting call for a particular racial group.

      This argument is a non-starter.

  5. I love how they point out all the few single examples of white people that work for them. It reminds me of progressive urbanites who always like to tell you about their 2 black and 1 gay friends.

  6. The signing of Bocanegra was a calculated move to deal with this lawsuit. It’s a classic move. If you’re facing a lawsuit, which they’ve known for awhile, they take actions to say, “Hey, look! We are doing things that are contrary to what you’re suggesting.”

    However, they’ve been on record enough to show that they were discriminating. Fans were tuned in very early on with Chivas and then again when they tried it again this year.

    • Sean, signing Bocanegra has nothing to do with any lawsuit. First, Bocanegra’s father has Mexican ancestry. Second, Bocanegra automatically becomes Chivas USA’s best defender by default, especially how the club has been leaking goals. Third, Bocanegra gets a chance to show Juergen Klinsmann that he can still play for a first-division league.

  7. OMG–Chivas USA is talking ethnicity relations lessons from the State of Florida! By the way Chivas USA canned Chelis…he’s Mexican 🙂

  8. I wonder if MLS is behind the show. Chivas won’t sell, they are going to do what they are going to do.

    Not the like Garber was telling Chivas, here is what you should do, blow up the franchise with an insane policy and create controversy with an unacceptable trend to most people living in 2013.

  9. I’m not defending Chivas USA, but if the club was seriously trying to Mexican-ize itself, it is strange that their captain is Dan Kennedy (even though I know he does speak a decent level of Spanish from his time in Chile).
    If its proven to be true, Chivas USA should be punished. And personally, I would like for MLS to force Vergara to sell the club.

    • I would listen to Ives’s podcast. Giving Kennedy the armband/signing a white American homegrown player are recent moves, within the past few monts. Hopefully, this is a sign of change, but it doesn’t make up for past discrimination. They will have to settle these lawsuits out of court and it will cost them.

      • I thought Kennedy was their captain last year, too? I don’t pay super close attention to that bunch, but I could have sworn he had the arm band before this season.

      • Regardless of who has the armband-owners have said publicly they intend to make it a club of specific ethnic traditions-fact pattern doesn’t look good. Think about it-if you have to point to the one or two examples that “proves” they aren’t discriminating-it probably means all the other evidence points in the other direction. People running that club are not smart regardless.

  10. I don’t get the big deal. Let the owners do what they want. U might get a few all mexi or all euro or whatever teams, but they will have a tougher time succeeding. In a way it brings diversity, in that different teams have very different identities. Supporters can choose to support or oppose whatever team they like. Let it go, for everyone.

    • So demanding that all players be Mexican increases diversity? Not withstanding the fact that Chivas’ practices are illegal, they certainly don’t make things more diverse!

      • Certainly it does! When you have an all Irish team vs an all mexi team, or something of the like, the teams, not the members of one team, are more different, I.e. more diverse.

        Obviously my opinion wasn’t of legal importance nor directed to what don garber should do, it was to fans. Let it go. I think owners should be able to hire whom they want, there is no malice, just preference. They paid them and then sold them for more payment, no harm to the players. Obviously if they refused to pay them or broke contract agreements, that is a different story.

        If the pats did that, they wouldn’t be a very successful team, now would they? If they want to alienate their fan base, lose money, lose talent, and make lots of enemies, why stop them? They will face bankruptcy themselves, no need to get involved.

        I also don’t agree with seat belt laws. I think if you are driving 70 miles an hour down the hwy you might be a moron or a thrill seeker not to wear one, but I don’t think you should be harassed, ticketed, fined, and impeded for what you do with your money, your body or your team. Saying that, it is still illegal to do so. I just think it shouldn’t be.

        The mls is about to be in some federal litigation, I hope it doesn’t drain the league dry.

      • The team would be less diverse but the league, plausibly, would be more.

        I’m with ThaDeuce, only to the point of the players on the field. The staff thing is pretty harsh and unfair.

        There are a lot of people who hate the single entity that is MLS. Essentially, all the players are on the same team but are divided up and given different uniforms, like a soccer camp.

        If the MLS ever put a team in Harlem, I would be happy if the owner decided to comprise the team of all AA players. Different personalities to teams mean more, better rivalries, beyond just geographic.

      • I’m guessing you don’t understand the difference between INTERnational and INTRAnational.

      • So ethnic differences that don’t fit into nationalities should be disregarded and disallowed, ignored even? Why? Why not celebrate them? I personally like Naugles idea a lot, of course, if the owner chose that. You would make it illegal?

      • Why would so called intranational rivalries be any less successful, fun, or respectful than our international ones? I really don’t see your point.

    • It’s a violation of the Civil Rights Act… how is that not a big deal? This is a business operating in the United States of America that is openly and purposefully–with malice–discriminating against non-Latino ethnicities in their hiring practices.

      It’s an even bigger deal because it’s a professional sports franchise so blatantly flaunting the law. Imagine if the Patriots decided to only hire Western European whites. Chaos.

  11. Chivas USA is such a bad, bad marketing ploy all the way around.

    1. The entire dynamic inherently draws racial/ethnic lines.

    2. If you are a fan of any Mexican team other than Chivas you would never root for them.

    3. Latinos, other than those of Mexican descent (ie – salvdorean, honduran, costa rican, etc), are not going to root for them.

    4. Mainstream Americans are not going to root for them.

    5. If you are someone who roots for the real Chivas de Guadalajara, you may feel that Chivas USA is a cheaper, un-original version.

    6. Their workplace practices are discriminatory and illegal in the United States. You cannot ask players about their place of origin or their parents place of origin. You cannot hire or fire people based upon race or national origin.

    Mr. Vergara – Please sell your franchise, make your profit, and leave our country. Let MLS rebrand and relocate this ill-thought out venture.

    • I couldn’t agree more with this post, I have no idea why Garber and MLS would even want this franchise still? Its a disaster of a situation and has been from the beginning. For all of the progress MLS has made over the years this has become a major black eye for them.

      • I agree with this post and the 2 replies. I hope this speeds up the demise of Chivas USA. With the number of markets that want a team like Orlando, Sacramento and whoever else, Garber and company need to get a new owner, new location, new brand, and complete new identity for this team.

  12. It’s a business strategy that has not worked. The evidence is on the field and in the stands.

    The Galaxy must be thrilled with this, having a monopoly on all the non-Hispanic youth talent in the region plus those Hispanic children who prefer the Galaxy or, in turn, hate Chivas Guadalajara.

    But if these results (field and stands) do not matter -that the only purpose is to be a farm club for C.D. Guadalajara- than there is a problem.

    Wonder why they didn’t speak to Keith Costigan or Dan Kennedy? Maybe the team didn’t allow them to speak but there should have been some mention of an attempt.

  13. There’s a lot of non-Mexicans at the club still so without knowing all the details of the suit, I’d say that they may be tough to prove.

    • Details of the suit? “Non-Mexican?”

      Look at the roster for Chivas USA. They have a *much* higher ratio of Mexican-American players – and, barring that, players who likely have a Mexican heritage of some sort – than any MLS squad. This doesn’t just randomly happen – especially when you trade away soooo much of your top-line talent (e.g., Riley, Agudelo) for pennies on the dollar so you can make roster space for your new, arguably less-talented players. Chivas USA can’t deny that they’ve been Mexican-izing their squad this season… at the very least, Latino-izing.

      The fact that they trot out the “our Captain is American” bit is laughable. One: That’s the same tired excuse bigots use for “but I have friends who are black/gay/minority”; Two: Even Chivas USA isn’t completely insane: Dan Kennedy is arguably one of the top 3 goalkeepers in this league… kinda hard to justify getting rid of him.

      • And gotta love that they point out that they just Carl Blackmouth, oh wait, doesnt he go by Carlos Bocanegra? Because he is Latino? Just saying Paco nail polish Palencia…

      • It sounds pretty open/shut. We’ll see–discrimination suits are not the easiest to win. It sounds like some people are getting a bit hysterical about it though. I’m just an observer without all of the facts, like I pointed out earlier.

    • And while he was on his way to a concert by The Cure. He ended up being late and missed hearing them play “Love Cats.”

  14. Just curious how you determined that “shockwaves” had been sent through the league ?

    Very troubling story but it wasn’t exactly new information presented last night.

    • This was on a big stage though, MLS fans have thought this was true for a while but the general sporting public probably had little idea.

      • You’re making an assumption that the general sporting public cares. Maybe they would if the story got more coverage but it’s apparently not even news based on the lack of coverage. There’s no shockwave yet, not even a tremor.

  15. I can understand why MLS may have refrained from commenting on ongoing litigation – but it’s worth mentioning that this is PR 101 – they made themselves look even worse than Chivas/Palencia by not offering any substantial commentary.

    And like I said – they’re in the midst of litigation now, but Garber/MLS could’ve offered plenty of commentary before that started.

    • Garber being an NFL guy (NFL Europe), is following the precedent of the NFL’s approach to such issues. ALWAYS wait for litigation to be done before executing any league investigation and/or league punishment.

      Doesn’t make for great PR during litigation, but makes PR much MUCH cleaner in the end (in my opinion).

      • That really bothers me about the NFL. They refuse to comment on any “ongoing investigations” for fear that they will say something incorrect. Yet they seem to have no problem suspending players for being accused of crimes (before they have had a chance for a fair trial or due process.) It’s absolutely insane and, if you ask me, illegal as it seems to blatantly disregard labour law.

      • Because this is an allegation of an ongoing practice, and in a single-entity league (which NFL is not), MLS needs to be a bit more proactive than this. At the very least, say that MLS will conduct its own investigation “at the appropriate time”. Player contracts are all owned by the league, not the teams – MLS can’t wash its hands of this as easily as a normal sports league.

      • Any lawyers on here? If its single-entity, doesn’t that mean MLS technically owns 51% of chivas USA? And therefore are directly at risk of litigation? Or do they simply own the contracts?

      • The test for attributing the actions of part of an entity to another part is very complex. My guess– and it is strictly a guess uninformed by case law– is that MLS can probably get off scot-free because they don’t directly control Chivas’s labor relations. (My legal “analysis” is worth exactly what you’re paying me for it, of course.)

    • MLS is the majority owner in Chivas USA – as it is in all MLS teams. Vegara is simply an investor in the league and owns a franchise contract.

      So while the lawsuit may be against Chivas USA the franchise, in the end, MLS has some legal and – if not – financial responsibility in whatever the judgment is.

      So of course MLS won’t comment. They can’t.

      • There is no good outcome for MLS from allowing a lawsuit to proceed. Clean house, settle with the plaintiffs, put it in the rear view mirror.

  16. In Mexico for an American company requires you to hire you speak English, it is called labor demand in united states if a Mexican company requires you to speak Spanish, it is called racism and discrimination

    • No it isn’t. I worked for one of them (and I was probably hired because I was whiter than bread). But it is very difficult for them to find the talent they need, and they constantly have to prove why they need Spanish speakers to justify the self-evident discrimination. Which basically meant that if you weren’t latino and spoke Spanish, you could easily get a job there.

      But I think the club’s problems go beyond the language. I think the allegations were that you need a Mexican accent to your Spanish or your English.

    • Your comment makes no sense.

      You can–of course–require that people being hired for certain positions speak a certain language if it’s relevant to the position or element of the company. That is completely legal in the United States.

      You cannot blanket discriminate against people because they speak another language. And furthermore that isn’t what happened here at all.

      They hired and fired people solely for being the right or wrong ethnicity.

    • I’ll refer you to the civil rights act of 1964 (below). Also it’s hard to argue that SPANISH speaking is necessary to doing the job of playing for Chivas USA, when this was just recently imposed. Also, The team is in the USA, the laws of Mexico are irrelevant. If this was Mexico, this would be legal I would imagine (example:Chivas Guadalajara). Finally, this isn’t even an apples to apples comparison from an example perspective. For it to be apples to apples the American company would have to say that you need to be of european decent to play for our team. It’s about ethnicity, not language, or even citizenship. The fact that there are Americans on the team is irrelevant, because they are on the team only because they are Americans of a certain ethnic tradition. Civil Rights act of 1964 key takeaways below from the national archives. Thanks.

    • Mike, if the company can demonstrate that their is a business necessity to requiring that employees speak Spanish, they can legally have that requirement. Of course, there’s no such business necessity at Chivas.

    • Your comparison is absurd. First of all, U.S. companies in Mexico are located there because of outsourcing/fabrication reasons, obviously because it financially feasable (cheaper labor), but most of their business administrative side is conducted in the U.S. I lived in Guadalajara for 10 yrs. and American Company’s hire both personal who speak spanish or the preferred bi-lingual. Usually in higher level positions where you interact with bussiness people back in the U.S. they request that you know to speak English, obviously because there would be a lack of communication. Chivas on the other hand is a sports club in the U.S. practicing rules that are considered against labor laws in this country. And when you fill out a form in this country, you have it in various languages, which was not the option for the young player on last nights show. And in addition they went as far as asking for both the parents ethnicity as if somehow the kid is going to be better because he is of hispanic descent.


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