From the moment Jorge Vergara began aggressively “re-Mexican’izing” Chivas USA both on and off the field, a discrimination lawsuit against Chivas USA for its hiring and personnel practices appeared inevitable. While it may be legal in Mexico to explicitly staff a team and front office solely from a single ethnic group, that is not the case in the United States. In addition, it would only take a cursory reading of the English-language material that exists about Jorge Vergara to know that any sports organization run by him would be so ham-handed and obvious in chasing the Caucasians off of the playing and coaching staff that a discrimination suit was really just a matter of time. It turns out that today is that time.
The suit announced today by the firm representing former CUSA coaches Dan Calichman and Ted Chronopoulos alleges nothing that wasn’t already suspected or outright known within the American soccer community. CUSA explicitly and intentionally sought to rid its staff of non-Mexican and non-Latino members. The on-field effects have been obvious during the past season as non-Mexican players were released or shipped out, often for very little in return.
What surprises me about this suit is not that it was filed, but that it was filed by coaches rather than players. I had figured that some players released by CUSA and unable to find new MLS spots would, with support of the players union, file suit against CUSA and MLS because, under MLS’ single entity structure, the league is as much the employer in question as the club. That fact makes any suit by players against MLS or its clubs much more complicated. But coaches are hired by clubs as conventional salaried employees just like myself and like most of you reading this. The importance of it being coaches filing this case is that it makes the case a much more simple one to understand and, in the end, a more simple one for a judge to decide – if it ever comes to that, which I doubt it ever will.
On to the allegations. The complain includes the following accusations:
CUSA sought to “implement a discriminatory policy similar to the ethnocentric ‘Mexican-only’ policy that exists at Chivas de Guadalajara.” This included “replacing players and staff who had no Mexican or Latino heritage,” and appointing Mexican nationals to the team’s top executive positions.
Mr. Vergara called all Chivas USA employees to a meeting and announced that non-Spanish speaking employees would be fired. It quotes Mr. Vergara as saying, “If you don’t speak Spanish, you can go work for the Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language.”
In late November of 2012, the complaint states, Jose David, the team’s newly hired president and chief business officer, asked Mr. Chronopoulos to report which Academy players and coaches were Mexican or Mexican-American and which were not.
In late December Mr. David directed Mr. Chronopoulos to collect ethnic and national origin data on the youngsters enrolled in the Chivas Academy and their parents, according to the complaint, which states that “When the requests for this information were sent to the parents, many of them were offended and refused to provide it.”
Finally, after both coaches were mysteriously suspended by the club, filed subsequent complaints with both CUSA’s HR department and with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the suit alleges that CUSA fired Calichman and Chronopoulos.
It didn’t take long for folks familiar with the situation to begin corroborating some of the claims. The claims of the “go work for the Galaxy” meeting were quickly backed up by Southern California journalist Luis Bueno on Twitter.
Look, Chivas USA is “dead to rights” here. You’ve got Chivas USA staff, from the owner on down, saying that the team is going to be made “more Mexican” and them almost immediately taking actions that certainly appear illegal, to execute that goal.
To me, the only question is whether the mercurial Vergara attempts to fight this suit in court, or whether, under pressure from MLS, he quietly settles with Calichman and Chronopoulos.