All soccer fans, at one time or another, have had issues with referees. From the chants, “I’m blind, I’m deaf, I wanna be a ref.” to the rants on social media going off on blown calls, and even coaches and managers being fined for questioning calls or berating decisions made by refs during games to the media. I was the last person to stand up and defend the referees, until now.
Clint Dempsey, a national team hero and one of MLS’s star players, has never been one to back down from a challenge and has had his share of controversy But on Tuesday June Under the letter of the law, this is labeled as referee assault and a mandatory 6month suspension. MLS came back with 3 games and this has set a very scary precedent!
I can’t comment on how the game was called since it wasn’t televised, nor can I say that the frustrations and anger weren’t justified. I can however express the extreme level of disappointment I feel at both Clint’s actions and MLS’s reactions to the situation. Dempsey has never been known to be the wallflower in the corner shy and unaffected by the wrongs committed against him or his team but I never expected that he would let his frustrations get the better of him to the level of committing what is textbook labeled assault. I get it, he got pissed! As a player or a fan, at some point, we’ve all been wronged. Not one person can honestly say that they haven’t wanted to react to the referees’ bad call or missed calls,
As wrong as a referee’s call may have been and as bad a job as they may have done, there is no situation where it’s acceptable to lay hands on them. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially in today’s time where there are cameras everywhere and social media brings even the smallest infractions to the forefront and anything can go viral in an instant! The most recent campaign from MLS is Don’t Cross The Line and Respect but when the biggest star in MLS gets a for assault of a referee that is clearly crossing the line and respect goes out the because MLS has just set a precedent that allows players to not only disrespect but physically attack the referees.
I worry for the future of the sport I love, I worry for the safety of the players and staff, and mostly I worry for the children who see these actions and thinks that it’s OK to become a bully! The reality is that’s what Clint has become. Those children who idolize him and the sport now think that this is acceptable behavior and that’s truly terrifying.