Sunil Gulati will not run for re-election. It’s the right decision, one that frankly should’ve been made before the late November deadline for organizations to rescind their nominations for the presidency.
But let’s take a close look at that story, particularly this quote:
Gulati, born in India, was the subject of some racist commentary on social media, but said that didn’t play a significant factor in his decision.
I must be muting the right people now, because I didn’t see any of that. I switched to the browser I don’t normally use and tried to find something.
It was a while ago, but on Oct. 13 (by far the highest volume of tweets mentioning him — that was day Gulati held a conference call and Bruce Arena resigned), he did indeed get at least three tweets that would qualify as racist. One suggested Trump should deport him (also noted Oct. 10). One used a word that seems to be a regional answer to Mexico’s “p—” chant. Another made reference to curry.
And some of it was simply abusive:
It gets worse. I’m not going to repeat one allegation. Let’s say it had nothing to do with soccer or business or economics. Another one still thinks “gay” is an insult. And there are another couple of invitations to remove himself from the living.
This one might be the strangest:
Or maybe this:
A lot of people simply asked him to resign — hundreds of tweets in the hour after the apocalypse in Trinidad, then another burst when news broke that the Italian federation president was stepping down.
And the usual stuff from people who don’t understand that this isn’t a paid position:
This one’s especially muddled:
Also, I sometimes wonder if people think we’re living in a fascist country (hey, we’re getting closer) in which the federation and other authorities also dictate the media coverage:
Here’s a palate cleanser from someone who ran against Gulati a couple of times (and won once):
That search as a whole, though, was a reminder that there are a lot of really stupid hate-mongers on Twitter.
And that’s just Twitter. Other platforms may have carried more racist abuse, but when I think racist abuse and sheer hate, I think Twitter.
Here’s a more pertinent quote to dissect:
“Look, the general perception in the soccer community versus the people who vote in elections may be different right now,” Gulati said, referring to the various state soccer associations and administrators who will vote in the presidential election.
“But the loss to Trinidad was painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions. And to be honest, I think at this point, that’s overshadowed a lot of other things that are important. So fair or not, I accept that and think it’s time for a new person.”
All of this is true. If I were advising Gulati on PR, I’d drop the “fair or not” clause. And I wouldn’t have responded to this point:
Cordeiro’s entry was the most dramatic, given his relationship with Gulati — and it was clear that Cordeiro’s choice affected the relationship between the longtime friends.
“It was an interesting set of discussions with Carlos,” Gulati said in a quiet tone. “That’s all I’m prepared to say about that.”
So it’s not the most graceful exit for Gulati. He still maintains higher ground than his Twitter accusers, but that’s a very low bar. Even the people on Twitter who use their real names rarely have any perspective or understanding of what Gulati has done. It’s not really logical to blame Gulati for undoing all the progress made over the past decade without noticing Gulati was in place while all that progress was made.
And the bulk of the job — er, volunteer position — has little to do with the men’s or women’s national teams. Here’s what he says about the other candidates:
I think several of them would be in for a pretty big shock about what the job is — it’s not just about national teams. It’s about 4 million registered players, referees, medical safety, grass-roots stuff. It feels like that stuff gets ignored sometimes.
It’s definitely more drudgery than the Twitterati realize. Read back through the minutes of USSF Board meetings, and you will be bored. I also wouldn’t want to be the one trying to figure out what to do with the country’s pro leagues — Neil Morris and I basically figured it’s nearly impossible to avoid lawsuits down the road.
But I think Gulati, perhaps in one final comment that shows he hasn’t been listening to the right people, is selling the other candidates short. Steve Gans, who embarked on a listening tour before announcing his candidacy, is talking about a youth summit to try to quell the factionalism at the grass roots. Paul Caligiuri is talking about ODP, id2 and the Development Academy. Eric Wynalda spent the weekend at an adult soccer tournament. Kyle Martino, Mike Winograd and Paul Lapointe have ideas for every aspect of the game. And Carlos Cordeiro certainly understands the scope of the job — he’s vice president, and he has done the heavy lifting on the budget for many years.
We’re seeing a productive exchange of ideas. We need Cordeiro and maybe Kathy Carter to come in and give their views as well.
So can we agree that we’re not going to let Twitter ruin this election?