I wonder if the staff of The New York Times Magazine is yet capable of understanding the depth of the mistake it made in budgeting, editing, approving, and publishing Jay Caspian Kang's July 12th article, "The Dark Side of American Soccer Culture," a gross misrepresentation that effectively cast Seattle soccer fandom as a cabal of "stunted" white men desperate to co-opt a European flavor while largely excluding Latino fans from the process.
"Mr. Kang went to one game, and then saw some other people fighting on Youtube and made a connection out of tissue paper and stale bubblegum. There were no facts, there were no studies or citations, there was no effort to look at any of the more diverse communities where MLS plays such as Los Angeles or New York (which, we should remind the New York Times, is where the New York Times ostensibly publishes from) where the fans might draw inspiration from their constituent multiethnic parts."
I wonder if the folks at the Times even get precisely why soccer fans, dignitaries, and pundits were so thoroughly up in arms with indignation over the author's downright crass characterization of Seattle's Emerald City Supporters -- and, by extension, much of the main stream of American soccer fandom -- as well as his and the Times' surprising disdain for an evidentiary standard.
I wonder about these things because NYT's record of soccer coverage was plainly insufficient long before Jay Caspian Kang was even offered a contract with the company following the dissolution of his former employer, Grantland.
Here's an uncomfortable question: if the Grey Lady mostly refuses, willfully, to cover the two Major League Soccer teams and fan bases in her own back yard, how can she presume to possess any ability to cover a team and a fan base three thousand miles away on the west coast? Does that prioritization make even a lick of sense?
Let's be honest, NYT doesn't really care about New York City FC, the New York Red Bulls, or Major League Soccer. Not very much, anyway. And I have proof:
- Routine reprints of Associated Press recaps for NYCFC and Red Bulls matches, as opposed to original, locally-derived coverage.
- Frequent refusal to send credentialed journalists to cover matches at Yankee Stadium (35 minute drive from NYT headquarters) and Red Bull Arena (40 minute drive from same).
- An irrepressible urge to paint real, authentic American soccer fans as hipsters/snobs/frat boys united in their desire to come off as British/European.
- A research and fact-checking apparatus that utterly failed to prevent Kang's article from seeing the light of day in its current, lamentable form, belying the Times' sterling reputation for factual accuracy.
"I thought it was factually incorrect, poorly written, not even remotely researched and didn’t in any way, remotely reflect the supporter culture in our league or the demographics of our supporters. I was absolutely astounded by the article.... I read an article like that and I’m just so disappointed by the lack of professionalism, the lack of research and the recklessness of it."
"I have been to almost every single Sounders match since the Sounders joined the MLS, and I can tell you several things: there is no grand conspiracy to keep a large Latino contingent from attending the matches or sitting in the ECS section. That Latinos are not a large, unified presence at the matches proves exactly zero. The "large Latino community" you think should be one unified group of people without individual tastes and motivations simply doesn't support the Sounders en masse."
"All of this is shoddy writing, doing nothing more than for King [sic] to assert his unearned victimhood fantasy and dictate to people with which he clearly has almost no real-world experience. This is tourist journalism at its worst."
Author that ignores Latino elements in ECS calls me incredibly unobservant https://t.co/kRou5yPD7w— Dave Clark (@bedirthan) July 12, 2016
- The Third Rail, the largest and most diverse NYCFC fan group, whose president happens to be black (that's but one detail, but Kang doesn't mention black soccer fans in his article whatsoever, preferring the ridiculous White vs. Latino narrative)
- Los Templados, a group largely influenced by Latino barras and recently profiled by The Guardian
- Hearts of Oak, NYC12, and NYC SC, each one with its own distinct flavor
- The self-explanatory Blue Ladies
- The Red Bulls' Viking Army and Empire Supporters Club, whose history reaches back to the very beginning of MLS
Here was the writer's response:
"Not sure what I could offer. I really haven't been around the team a ton this year."
Indeed, at NYT, nobody was.