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MLS to hit Arena with ‘a major fine’ for ripping league

BruceArena (USA Today Images)

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

By CARL SETTERLUND

The spat between LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and Major League Soccer headquarters has reached new heights.

According to a report by SI.com, MLS commissioner Don Garber intends to hand down “a major fine” to Arena over comments he made in August regarding the MLS single-entity structure.

“Bruce has the opportunity to be our Tom Landry, our Pat Riley, and he continually puts himself in a position where he acts unprofessionally and he emotionally misstates the facts,” Garber told SI.com.

The four-time MLS Cup champion Arena is one of the most recognizable coaches in the league and has the outspoken personality to match. He expressed displeasure in a Washington Post interview in late August after Arena felt the LA Galaxy’s attempt to acquire Sacha Kljestan was blocked.

“They are children and there have to be adults in the process, and we didn’t have enough of them,” Arena said in August. “I think we are back into the old days in the league when the rules are somewhat arbitrary. Hopefully we will get that straightened out in the offseason.”

The Galaxy had traded defender Kofi Opare — admittedly, not a franchise-altering move — to D.C. United in order to move up in the allocation order to acquire Kljestan.

“We had a trade in place. We had budget room and space to be able to do it. We had all of our ducks in a row,” Arena said. “I won’t go into detail and just say forces within the league worked real hard to make sure that didn’t happen.”

In the same interview, Arena expressed that ownership is as culpable as the league offices for the current player acquisition rules, or lack thereof. He also said “there are still a lot of clouds there” in reference to the blind draw that decided the destination of Jermaine Jones.

Garber has been equally candid in response.

​“In the case of Sacha Kljestan, he wanted to come to MLS and play for six months and live in Los Angeles so that he could then go back to Anderlecht,” Garber said to SI.com. “We are not going to sign a six-month contract with any player, whether Bruce Arena wants us to or not. His comments were false and inappropriate and will be dealt with … It will be a major fine.”

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What do you think of Arena’s comments? What was your reaction to Garber’s response?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. MLS can fine him all they want, but Arena is right. also, this is total BS:

    “We are not going to sign a six-month contract with any player, whether Bruce Arena wants us to or not.”

    why the hell not?! Kljestan is a US player who was looking for what appears to be a favor in order to get playing time. if LA are ok with that, and feel he can contribute, they have EVERY right to sign him on a 6 month contract! as Arena said, they had the cap space and it wouldn’t have broken any of MLS’ financial rules.

    Garber thinks he is doing himself a favor by revealing that Kljestan only wanted to be here for 6 months, but to me, it makes it even worse. not to mention, he makes it sound like MLS is above a 6 month contract and so even if it works for the team, MLS is gonna snub the request. and while it shouldn’t be the norm, one-offs like this aren’t going to happen all the time.

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  2. When any investors buy a MLS franchise they know the rules, and the potential, they make a ton of money, the rules are not perfect but it made sense for now,, just remember the Cosmos,, and why League Disappeared, and for Sure they will change, first the clubs like LA, have to raise the salary to young kids and more things that need to be improve, remember you have to compete with 3 sports to get people, sponsor and TV prime time, just saying

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  3. Arena is right, the single entity structure is killing the MLS and it’s time to shed it.

    MLS: communism at its best (for the benefit of the selected few, or, “The Party”): the Party knows best: the party tells you who to play for, Jermaine Jones, and you are going to like it!

    If you criticize the Party, you get punished: next time, Bruce, you go to jail! The Party shall pick the next member/franchise/ to join.

    Don’t you worry, Toronto FC, even if you are the worst team in the history of mankind, you are a member of the Party and you shall remain so. The Party rewards mediocrity, that talk of relegation is a no-no! Nobody wants out of the Party!

    Next: The Party to sign a contract with a company making artificial turf and studies will show that, you see, playing on turf is much better than playing on real grass: just see how perfectly the ball bounces on that Sounders surface. The Party shall mandate that all stadiums put turf going forward.

    Because the Party knows best!

    What a joke of a league!

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  4. I think that people trying to blame this on one side or the other misses what is going on here. Bruce is being Bruce – a hyper competitive guy who is trying to bully the commissioner into letting him stretch the rules and give his team an advantage over everybody else – that is his job and he does it well. Garber is just doing what he does well – limiting the things that the league does so that it can remain a financially viable league for the foreseeable future. Garber does this very well as long as he is allowed to do whatever he wants without being questioned. I remember him taking away DC United’s home field advantage one year in the playoff so that the Red Bulls, reeling from Hurricane Katrina, could more conveniently host their part of a home/home series. It was an extraordinary decision to completely wipe out the home field advantage earned over an entire season of play, but everybody went along with it and there were no complication because everybody went along with it.

    Garber is over reacting to Bruce because he does not like being questioned. As the league continues to grow, look for Garber to become less and less of a good fit for MLS. Being questioned about your decisions is what happens in any high pressure job and as Garber is more and more successful in building the league, the spot light on each decision that he makes gets brighter and brighter.

    Look for this type of thing to start happening more and more often. Garber is just a victim of his own success in building a financially viable league. The next step will be to develop a competitively viable league while staying financially viable – something that I think somebody else will have to do. Garber is too brittle to deal with the competitive part.

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  5. Probably a bit of hyperbole from both sides, about what actually happened.
    I like how this all played out though, quite a bit, and think it’s win-win across the board.
    I see both sides looking strong, a little pub, changes in clarity coming soon, a little more pub…
    I think Arena probably made his feelings known with MLS behind closed doors, before feeling disregarded, and going public with his complaints.

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  6. Arena was right. Garber has done very well with MLS, lets not sell his accomplishments short, but he is stubbornly holding on to this single entity system when no other American sport is structured this way and when its existence is now totally unnecessary.

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  7. MLS is a single entity to control costs and fix results. If one team is gaining an advantage over others, the league can put a stop to it by restricting player movement to that team and directing players to other teams. The league thinks it can gain interest by leveling the teams but it just comes across as phoney and contrived. MLS is the pro wrestling of soccer leagues and it should not be taken seriously.

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  8. It’s not fair that Real and Barca sign whomever they want. The reason La Liga is so popular is because of the big 2. MLS as a single entity will never achieve that type of status until they shed the single entity and play like the big boys do. Nobody wants to take a risk so no reward is in line for MLS. Just play it safe and keep taking baby steps for the next 20 years. Soccer could become the #3 sport in the US if it could attract players and in turn greater ratings on TV and packed stands.

    It does a very good job now but the time is coming where the training wheels will need to come off in order to really grow. Yes Arena is right parity is not going to cut it and having strong franchises who represent well year in and year out will make the League better.

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    • Ummm…La Liga isn’t popular. Barca and Madrid are. They are popular because they are the among the best teams in the world (and Atletico btw). Point just being that parity is good for a league. It’s amazing that each MLS season, you never really know who will be that good.

      That point aside, this move sucked. MLS needs clear rules with consistent enforcement. It lacks both.

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  9. ​“In the case of Sacha Kljestan, he wanted to come to MLS and play for six months and live in Los Angeles so that he could then go back to Anderlecht. We are not going to sign a six-month contract with any player, whether Bruce Arena wants us to or not. His comments were false and inappropriate and will be dealt with … It will be a major fine.”

    GETS QUESTION ABOUT JULIO CESAR
    SMILES POLITELY AT CAMERA
    RUNS FROM PODIUM

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  10. I’m old enough to remember when MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn blocked a big trade between the A’s and thd Red Sox because Charlie Finley was giving away too much and in Kuhn’s view it was not in “the best interests of baseball.” It was quite a kerfuffle. I realized that Garber and his team police the entire MLS in the same way. It is an embarrassment.

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  11. Let’s see…LA has had Beckham, Keane, Donovan, Gonzales and the league wouldnt let him have Sacha too. It’s so unfair!!! Maybe if he could add Messi and Neymar too, he could actually win MLS.

    I hope MLS fines him a ton. He’s an arrogant baby and thinks he can have anything he wants. Guess what Brucie, you could retire or quit tomorrow and MLS wouldnt skip a beat

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  12. Breaking! Joe Zinnbauer named head coach of Hamburger SV. From German 5th division, to BSV reserve team (4th division) to Bundesliga I in 3 months.

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  13. So let me get this straight. Garber says “We’re not going to sign a six month contract with any player…” in the claim that Sacha would go back to Belgium afterwards, but it was okay for Julio Cesar to come play for TFC for maybe three months, knowing full well QPR could call him back after the World Cup? Even though QPR was paying the majority of his wages, the difference between what MLS paid Cesar and what they would have to pay Sacha for 6 months cannot be that far apart. I say this is bogus. I’m with Arena on this issue…

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    • Unfortunately, the American soccer media coddles those involved with the sport in the US that you’ll never see any American soccer writers bring this point up with Garber.

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    • exactly. and who Fing cares if it’s a short loan?! if the team is ok with it and they feel it strengthens them, who are the league to come in and block it? to me this is no different than an “emergency loan” in the Championship that Shea has used to get playing time while signed to Stoke.

      no rules are being broken, LA isn’t circumventing anything. the only shady thing here is MLS deciding that his 6 month loan is not up to their standard.

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  14. Everyone had kind of moved on. It’s not like he keeps bringing it up over and over like Bradley going after the refs. Seems like the league is just putting a spot light on it, all over again.

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  15. Right here, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with the stupid MLS structure and “rules.” And now they fine Arena for calling them out on it? Arena has benefited from this same weirdness in the past, but he is right on target. MLS is run like an intramural basketball league.

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    • It’s been 7.5 years since we last got one of those from the league. It resulted in David Beckham, the DP rules, and the league making money across the board. Since then we’ve had nothing and Seattle got the shadiest of deals(Dempsey).

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  16. The allocation order is a sham. Any team that trades anything to move up to first might as well just kiss that asset goodbye. The same thing happened when the Timbers traded up to first place last year only to have the league make an end run around the list during the Dempsey signing. Their behind closed doors decision would have been much more palatable it they had at least forced Seattle to give up something in order to jump up to the top.

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    • That is an excellent case in point.

      Bottom line is the league does what the league wants. Whatever player acquisition rules that do exist are exercised (or not exercised) at the league’s pleasure. There simply is not enough autonomy among teams.

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  17. So the ML will hand Arena a major fine BECAUSE they would be believe that Klejstan would only sign a six month contract. To pretend to know the mind of a player and what he will do. ie.,: “go back to Anderlecht” has to be the high water mark of hubris for Garber and the MLS.

    The truth s the MLS is only looking out for the MLS, not the players,coaches and fans.
    Arena is a master of figuring out the myriad and convoluted ways of player acquisition under the MLS salary cap. It wasn’t lost to me or the rest of the MLS teams, that starting a second separate USL-PRO team, they could offload players (and salaries) to make room for experience, but more expensive players and keep the up and comers in USLPRO to give them playing time.

    Arena figured they would get Klejstan and fit him in as a non-DP player for the rest of the season, and then sign him to a DP (or non-DP) contract for the following seasons. That would effectively give the Galaxy four (4) DP players and this pissed off the MLS and other MLS teams, who then very purposely put up roadblocks to prevent the acquisition. Do they really think that Arena would not care if Klejstan would move back to Anderlecht after 6 months.

    To fine Arena because he accused the MLS (rightly or wrongly) of playing hanky-panky with player acquisition is one thing, but to fine him because they THINK Klejstan would leave after 6 month is hilarious as it is insulting. Garber should be ashamed of himself.

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    • The truth is Arena was going to rent Kljestan cheap now to circumvent the salary cap rules and then his rights would go to Anderlecht again, and then LA would hold open the Donovan and/or Keane slots through next summer, then try and sign him again. It’s 6 months too cute. it’s not right to sign someone at a fake rate this season to get around the cap, then by virtue of the “loan” charade, send him back and sign them next season at a real rate.

      It’s very clever, it also smacks of how they shoved their cap off on Chivas to sign Keane.

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      • How were they signing him at a fake rate? Were they using Monopoly money?

        they were gonna pay what it took to get a player on loan.
        they would also have the books cleared of LD’s salary when a new transfer window opened (January not July) to persuade whatever player they desired to come play in LA.

  18. So MLS doesn’t want to sign a player to a 6-month contract… why not, exactly? In other American sports leagues, teams sign players for the remainder of a season all the time. It’s not exactly un-heard of. Furthermore (assuming Garber’s statement is accurate), if L.A. Galaxy was OK with such an arrangement and had the cap room to pull it off, why should the league have a problem with it? If Galaxy wanted to take on a player who would ditch them in 6 months to go back to Belgium, then that should be their problem. That’s how it would work in any other league in America.

    The whole point of single-entity in the beginning was to control labor costs and to inflate the number of teams in the league at a time when there were not enough investors willing to buy into individual franchises. This is the latest piece of evidence that single-entity has transformed into a way for the league office to usurp front office power from its member teams.* If Garber wants to make team management decisions, he should step down and become a GM. But, to me, this is just stupid.

    *and yes, I realize that L.A. Galaxy is probably the least sympathetic “victim” ever. Doesn’t change the fact that individual franchises, whether they are in L.A. or Columbus, should be able to make their own front office decisions — including arguably dumb ones, especially when they try to do so within (known) existing rules.

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      • The only way MLS would give up the power and control they have is if it is unflinchingly and ruthlessly stripped by the US Federation, which has the power to open up the system by removing the D1 sanction they have bestowed on MLS. The burgeoning opportunities for investment are widespread around the country, but they are deliberately capped if no opportunity to move up in the pyramid exists.

      • “The only way MLS would give up the power…is if it is unflinchingly and ruthlessly stripped by the US Federation…”

        Not true. It’s pretty obvious that a majority of owners still see a benefit to the single entity setup. When that is no longer the case we’ll see it go away.

      • Except that if Garber’s issue was that Kljestan only wanted a 6-month deal, then that doesn’t matter. Even if Galaxy had sent assets to Columbus in exchange for moving up (or Columbus wanted to sign Kljestan themselves), MLS simply wouldn’t have signed the deal. You’re right that the Diskerud issue muddied things slightly, but the more fundamental issue is that the league vetoed a deal that at least 1 club was willing to enter into because the league didn’t like the terms.

      • and lets be honest, it was the league who likely played a part in the Mix deal falling apart. i refuse to believe it was only Mix’s dad’s fault. i don’t buy that for a second.

    • My only guess, and it is a complete guess, is that because MLS’ schedule doesn’t conform to other leagues around the world they don’t want teams going and scooping up big ticket players, not currently playing in other leagues, on short term contracts during the home stretch of the season. Similar to the trade deadline in other sports, it is there to prevent the stocking up of rich teams about to enter the playoffs (the rich get richer), while poor teams entering the playoffs are unable to add the same level of depth. Depending on how the contracts are structured they could bring in a number of great players on low guaranteed contracts that are heavily incentive laced but don’t count against the cap. I suspect this is exactly what the Galaxy were trying to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is something in the CBA that was argued on the players’ behalf that prevents this as well. It would create the situation for players who have been with the team most of the season to be scuttled right before the playoffs, which is where they have the greatest opportunity to capitalize on incentive based compensation. Again, this is all a complete guess and feel free to pick this logic apart.

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      • I have to agree. That’s what I suspect too. It’s to prevent MLS from becoming a summer vacation league. Doesn’t stop comments from the likes of Ashley Cole.

    • The spirit of the allocation order is supposed to be that players “coming home” are allocated out to the teams in line. If he’s really just going to jump back in and out of the league once or twice while he makes up his mind, and LA is trying to deal their way up the line to get a rental, I think it’s reasonable for MLS to say, at your expected price we want committed players. And if the idea was for him to come back cheap on loan one but then get paid when Anderlecht transferred or released him on transaction two or three, maybe MLS doesn’t have to play along with the charade. You want to sign here, we will pay you right, but we won’t let you sneak around the rules by coming in on cheap loan and then guilt tripping us into sending you back to LA next year when players retire.

      Is Anderlecht prepared to sell you? No. Are you prepared to go where we send you, at correct cost? No. Later…..

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      • um, did LA not make moves to put themselves in top 3 allocation spot? knowing that Crew were going to try and use theirs on Mix and that only Dallas was left to deal with.

        all we know is that no matter how it was going to play out, and it appears it was going to play out with Dallas passing or getting something in return for LA trading allocation spots, the league said “nope”.

  19. Arena disses klinsi and garber and probably isn’t impressed with gulati. He’s upset major soccer players but if he’d better not offend Hope Solo. She’ll put a strangle hold on him and make him say “uncle.”

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    • Yes, of course! And defense has been LA’s thinnest area all season. The only way the Opare trade would have made sense is if LA was able to sign a quality player as a result. The league (Or another team? Multiple other teams?) stepped in and screwed the pooch.

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      • @Nick… LOL… first thing I look for in the starting lineups is if #22 is in the mix! I bet Penedo has nightmares @ #22!

  20. How is Bruce’s comment an attack on League structure? This is ridiculous. The other owners sabotaged LA’s deal and they know it. But, that is hardly an attack on single-entity or a fine-able offense because Bruce followed the states rules.

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    • The league signs the players. The teams negotiate. The whole point is LA negotiated a deal that the league did not want to agree to. The discussion implicates the single entity because like Jones, he’s saying the teams should make their deals and the league should rubber stamp.

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    • Let me clear that up for you: MLS’ shady dealings. It’s a whack-ass, opaque, Byzantine system. Bruce was rightfully upset since the Galaxy sent Kofi Opare to DCU under the assumption LA would be free to sign Sacha Kljestan. Then the league stepped in, as it often does.

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      • Let’s also be clear, how Opare is currently performing is not a relevant point. The league being ‘shady’ is!
        Re: The Sacha contract deal, if the freakin league would align their season schedule with the rest of Fifa, these kind of issues, such as the SK controversy may not be an issue.

        I also feel that the league is searching for more parity and they desperately don’t want the upper level performing teams to be getting any better.

      • This has nothing to with align MLS season with other leagues…it has everything to do with MLS not being being transparent. Please stop saying we have to play August to May like some of the other leagues. Frankly, it’s ignorant. I live in the northeast (like 4 soon to be 5 teams). You cannot play soccer there in December or January at all. People complained how cold the MLS championship was how about having games like that each week. And no, 2 -3 month break will not work. Finally, we struggle enough for ratings, I do not want to compete with NFL, NCAAF, NBA, NCAAB and NHL during their peak windows.

      • Your point is taken and understood, but the factor still exists, that many of these type deals (which is what were talking about that causes this Arena situation) are done or attempted because of the scheduling ! Just saying..
        I also assume that during the searing humid summer heat in the east, south, Midwest etc.. you’re aok with that eh?
        Our domestic players and our mls teams all suffer during fifa windows because of the schedule.

      • Players will suffer, but they will play. Fans won’t go to the games when it is a 20 degree windchill, including myself. The attendance numbers will look more like chivas numbers for the northeast teams.

      • I lived in Belgium and trained in the military for a month in February – March. The winters there are NOTHING compared to what we get up here in the east. California is a totally different story. If the temperature drops to like 50, people whoop out their coats.

      • if you schedule it correctly, you could have northeast teams on extended road tips to the south and west during the coldest parts of the season and vice versa for southern teams during the hottest times of the year.

      • I think Arena is deploying red herrings. If you read between the lines of the articles, Anderlecht was going to 6 month loan Kljestan and was going to charge at least some MLS teams a loan fee for the privilege. Both the loan and the salary should have been cap items. LA was down the allocation order and out of DPs. LA trades Opare, that solves some of the allocation order but does not make them top dog on that list. LA is still out of DPs and trying to sign a player who when dangled to at least some teams has a fee attached. LA has a whole bunch of people taking up a lot of cap room.

        For that matter, I’m not sure if it’s in the league’s best interest to sign a contract with a player of his stature on short term loan. Look at the other USMNT players, they were committing here. ““We are not going to sign a six-month contract with any player, whether Bruce Arena wants us to or not.”

        LA tried to finesse one too many league rules or philosophies and they declined the deal.

        In karmic terms, this evens them up on forcing poor Chivas to take JP Angel — in exchange for whose big salary and declining productivity Chivas had to give trade value — so they could sign Keane and win two straight titles.

      • Like I said below, I think LA did this to try to get him playing cheap this season and then effectively sign a new contract next year for the right salary when they had a DP or two to spend. The loan is a subterfuge to get around the fact if Anderlecht sold him now, MLS would want a long term deal in exchange for his market rate salary, which LA could not afford in DP terms right now.

      • who cares? it’s not breaking any rules. for 6 months, the dude is under the DP minimum anyway. then, if they want to sign him next year, they have to re-work their finances. this is no different than how it works now where teams have to review their contracts at the end of every year and make adjustments as needed in the offseason.

      • i disagree with some of what you said. to me, LA has every right to sign a player on a 6 month loan without the league telling them if they can or not (assuming all rules are adhered to). maybe there was a loan fee involved, but Anderlecht was probably willing to keep paying a good chunk of his salary (even 10% off the books is better than 0%).

        he has a $750,000 annual salary, so at the maximum, LA is paying $375,000 over 6 months. if Anderlecht then agreed to continue paying a large chunk of the remaining $375,000, LA very well could have arranged something that worked within the financial rules. they probably also knew that the Crew were going to pass and that Kljestan didn’t want to go to Dallas. even if Dallas was interested, i doubt they sign a player who has no desire to be there and then leaves in 6 months anyway.

      • One assumes LA’s assumption was based on some hard and fast rules. I can’t imagine they just traded Opare and crossed their fingers, hoping for things to fall into place. If that’s the case, there are seriously structural issues with player acquisition processes in MLS. There should be hard and fast rules vis-a-vis signing players.

      • And let’s not forget when Pat Riley was with the LA Lakers, he was fined numerous times by the league for his criticisms of the officiating and the league policies.
        But I guess Garber missed that, unless winning 5 or more League trophies gives you a selective memory. I guess Arena will have to win another MLS Cup (5) for Garber to forget his remarks.

      • So I will say it. Garber can’t stop trying to get the NFL’s attention. “Tom Landry”? When would we have ever heard such a reference from Garber previously?

        Please slow down Don — you’ve found the headlines countless times this week. You’ve made it clear you are all about instant replay, you’ve come up with an (unsubstantiated explanation) for the Chivas mess and how it is massively profitable. You have publicized your 5 yr extension to prove your health. And you can’t stop blowing up Grant Wahl’s phone with exclusive interview offers. He’s always happy to oblige, thankfully.

        I love what Garber has done for the league, and I would probably do the same thing if I had a chance at a $30-50 million annual income instead of a measly $3 million… but Tom Landry references ??? Christ… awful pandering.

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