The US Soccer Annual General Meeting had a decidedly lower-key lead up than past events. US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone ran unopposed and will have a one year term that will finish out the one Carlos Cordero was elected to in 2018. Compared to his election, there was far less excitement around who would serve as the leader of the organization. However, the event was not without controversy as Seth Jahn, an American Para 7-A-Side player, made a lengthy racist speech during the meeting.
After the speech, US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone took questions from the press in which she noted that “hearing all sides” on the issue was important and needed to clarify several times what she meant by that. She finally settled on something that still seems a little confusing, “What I meant about hearing all sides on an issue - and it’s important for us to listen to different sides, whether it’s comfortable listening to them or not - but there’s absolutely no place for racist comments.”
Her comments to the press were followed by a statement from US Soccer:
It’s difficult after the speech by Jahn and subsequent lack of clarity from President Parlow Cone to reconcile touting repealing the policy requiring standing during the national anthem to see the Federation calling the AGM meeting “successful.” If anything, the meeting showed one of the weaknesses of repealing the anthem policy; that it is merely a symbolic step taken by an organization that needs to work much harder to create an inclusive culture for the sport that it responsible for leading.
Allowing players to kneel during the national anthem, putting “Black Lives Matter,” “Be The Change,” and “Black Lives Still Matter” on US national team apparel, and making statements against racism are good showings of support for equality. However, these are hollow when the organization and its leadership make statements in the wake of a racist tirade that they witness first hand at an event they host that are this unclear.
US Soccer players and coaches have led the way in pushing the organization to commit to making statements in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is time for the leadership of the organization to step up and make “Black Lives Matter,” “Be The Change,” and “Black Lives Still Matter” more than just slogans and public relations displays by turning them into meaningful action across US Soccer.