Landon Donovan doesn’t see soccer the way most people do. Throughout his career, he’s made decisions that have baffled experts and fans alike. From choosing to return to the United States despite a promising career in Europe, to taking a sabbatical at an age when many players are looking for one last contract to shine before they leave their prime.
Maybe that’s why he didn’t think it would be a big deal to star in an ad for Wells Fargo in support of the Mexico National Team – aka Team USA’s biggest rival.
But it was a big deal to many of his former teammates (and many US fans) who criticized him for selling out his ideals for corporate cash.
— Carlos Bocanegra (@BocaBoca3) June 16, 2018
Can’t tell u how disappointing it is to have made personal & financial sacrifices to try & hold our federation accountable only to see former USMNT players profit off the result of that poor governance by asking US fans to support our rivals in the tournament we failed to reach
— Kyle Martino (@kylemartino) June 17, 2018
Nah man!!! Mexico is not “my team.” Mexico is a rival in CONCACAF. In sport there is something sacred about rivalries. Meaning and history behind them!!! I don’t see Brazil cheering for Argentina. England cheering for Germany. Barca for Madrid. Man U for Liverpool or Lakers for Clippers. Yankees/RedSox etc…It’s sports and you’re allowed to cheer against someone. Let alone your regional rival!!!
Donovan’s appeal is not wrong in itself. Cheering for Mexico is a good option at this World Cup, particularly after their impressive win over Germany. And, after all, Donovan has strong ties with Mexico and played there this past season. Everyone is free to support the teams they want. If you feel you can’t cheer for Mexico, that’s ok too.
For all of those reasons, the controversy was shaping up to be a “gotta hear both sides” affair. That is, until Donovan let his Twitter fingers get the best of him. Responding to criticism from former teammate Carlos Bocanegra, Donovan opted for an ill-advised “woker than thou” approach, writing in a since deleted tweet:
Donovan’s Tweet implied that Bocanegra was rejecting his Mexican roots and that not supporting Mexico carried a moral weight. Seems like a dubious take from someone who was paid to cheer for the MNT by a bank recently investigated for its predatory lending practices towards Mexican-Americans. Naturally, people were not having it:
This is an incredibly terrible take. Questioning ones loyalties to culture and/or heritage because HE questioned YOU for taking marketing dollars to “root” for your SPORTING RIVAL?
You can hate El Tri- this doesn’t mean you have anything against Mexicans. ✊ https://t.co/xF9JCI1qBC
— herculez gomez (@herculezg) June 16, 2018
Uncle Tom’n or Tío Tomas’n someone .. don’t do it. Not a good look.
It’s 2018 FFS.
Don’t ever question ones roots, heritage, or loyalties.
Don’t pretend for one second to know what that person has gone through, or lived.
Not for beer or bank notes.
— herculez gomez (@herculezg) June 18, 2018
By Monday afternoon, Donovan had deleted his earlier tweet and apologized, as well as issued a clarifying statement on his stance.
I reflected on the tweet I made over the weekend and realize it was impulsive and inappropriate. I made a mistake and have removed the tweet. Let’s get back to the games ⚽️⚽️⚽️
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 18, 2018
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 17, 2018
So what’s the takeaway from this brief social media outrage cycle? 1. Root for whoever you want. 2. Please don’t wokesplain someone’s heritage to them. 3. Not rooting for the MNT doesn’t mean you have anything against Mexicans.