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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The boss comes to town: A City Hall discussion with Don Garber

MLS Commisioner Don Garber, center, greet Union Academy director
Tommy Wilson, right, and sporting director Earnie Stewart
Tuesday at YSC Sports in Wayne.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber toured the Philadelphia Union’s holy triangle of sites Tuesday – first Chester, then Wayne, then Philly – to see firsthand the infrastructure in which the club has invested so heavily in recent years.

Most of Garber’s remarks, to students at YSC Academy and then to a Town Hall audience at City Hall in Philly, centered on the Union and their situation within the MLS landscape. But in a one-on-one setting afterward, members of the media asked Garber some more pointed questions that went outside that local box.

A few highlights:

- First, a question from the town hall audience directed at Garber was aimed at the growth of the game via expansion and television. Garber said that the MLS TV contracts were set through 2022, but “we’re soon to announce over the top a social media package where games will be available on one of the more well-known social channels.” Feel free to speculate what that is, but there is recent precedent for experimentation in that realm. Liga MX and CONCACAF Champions League have taken to Facebook, the NFL used Twitter to livestream games and YouTube has been the chosen platform for the U.S. Open Cup for several years.

- In February, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl published a report on a “Designated Player-level” prospect who elected not to move to an MLS club due in part to the legal climate in the United States. The player, a Muslim, reportedly did not feel safe in the U.S. in light of President Donald Trump’s (since reconfigured) travel ban on residents from seven Muslim-majority countries. (The player was not from among those countries, Wahl reported.)

Garber said he wasn’t familiar with Wahl’s report or the player or club in question, but he did say the league is monitoring how the executive order changes.
“I think the bigger issue is how is the most recent law going to impact all Americans and impact all businesses. We have a particular interest because of the number of international players we have. I don’t know who that player was and I haven’t spoken to him and I haven’t heard anything else about that specific player. But we are a league for a new America, and you look at those kids there, I pointed to the mayor to look at the diversity of those players that are in the Union Academy, that’s what makes our country great, that’s what makes our league great, and I hope that we’re going to be able to continue to represent the wonderful story of immigration and diversity of our country. But it is very premature. We, like all other sports leagues, are carefully monitoring what’s happening. As you can imagine, we are following it closely to ensure that we are able to operate our business in a way that reflects on our values and those things that really matter.”
As far as any concerns regarding MLS players carrying passports from any of the countries on the list being barred from re-entering the country if they were to travel to a game in Canada, for instance, Garber said: “Not at this point. … None. We have not had any issues, but we are closely monitoring it.”
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