clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New U.S. Soccer scandal is a hard lesson in nepotism

The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives, friends, or associates, especially by giving them jobs, needs to end.

SOCCER-USA-TEAM Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

Yesterday, U.S. Soccer Federation held a virtual press conference that included President Cindy Parlow Cone, CEO JT Batson, and Sporting Director Earnie Stewart with over 200 media members present on a zoom call. We didn’t learn much about the current situation involving USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, with officials not wanting to comment on an ongoing investigation. The U.S. Soccer Federation intends to be fully transparent, but just not right now. However, we also learned today who initiated the newest scandal in U.S. Soccer.

Danielle Reyna released a statement through The Athletic, admitting she shared the details of the domestic incident between Gregg Berhalter and his wife from three decades ago with Stewart, who, of course, had to take the information seriously.

“As part of that conversation, I told Earnie that I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age. Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. It took a long time for me to forgive and accept Gregg afterward, but I worked hard to give him grace, and ultimately made both of them and their kids a huge part of my family’s life. I would have wanted and expected him to give the same grace to Gio. This is why the current situation is so very hurtful and hard.”

This part of Mrs. Reyna’s statement opened the door to the relationship between the two soccer families. It showed that their relationship went beyond the pitch, and it showed the ugliness of nepotism in sports. Because of their relationship, Gio Reyna’s mother felt obligated to protect her son, not only from the critics on social media, but also from a person that’s her friend, or at least was her friend. From her perspective, Berhalter was obligated to support her son the same way she supported his wife 31 years ago. I’ll leave that for you guys to discuss whether she is right or wrong in the comments.

Berhalter’s comments last month about an unnamed player almost being sent home from the World Cup in Qatar would not have been an issue if it had been about another player. Instead, it was about Mrs. Reyna’s baby boy. Her husband, Claudio, also shared a statement that could be used as an example of nepotism, believing that because of his relationship with Berhalter, his son should have had a better experience in his first World Cup.

“I too was upset by Gregg’s comments about Gio after the U.S. was out of the World Cup,” the U.S Soccer legend said in support of his wife. “While in Qatar, I shared my frustrations about my son’s World Cup experience with a number of close friends, [U.S. Soccer sporting director] Earnie [Stewart] and [USMNT general manager] Brian McBride among them.”

Neither Danielle nor Claudio considered that Stewart had a job to honor, and the U.S. Soccer sporting director made that clear in the 30-minute virtual conference. Stewart, who has a relationship with both families, sternly said his first priority is protecting U.S. Soccer. But, with the allegations brought to him by the Reyna family, it didn’t matter if they were blackmailing Berhalter; Stewart still had a job to honor and protocol to follow.

Nepotism is not new in sports and will continue to be a part of sports culture, but this scandal sheds light on what can happen when someone feels like the relationship isn’t being honored. In this failed case of nepotism, Berhalter, a long-family friend of the Reynas, did not honor the relationship by exposing their son’s issues with the national team on the sport’s biggest stage, which is why we are learning about this unfortunate situation between the Berhalters.