By now, we are all exceptionally aware of the Nigel de Jong controversy. Stompgate, as I’ve just now taken to calling it, has been a week long slog that has thus far culminated in a melange of hand-wringing, grandstanding, speculation, rumor mongering, out and out making stuff up, and very little in the way of news.
We’re still awaiting the official word both on Nagbe’s recovery timeline and Nigel de Jong’s compulsory vacation, but today, interestingly enough we’ve gotten a take on the situation from none other than Major League Soccer’s Commander in Chief, Don Garber.
Speaking to a gathering of Sacramento soccer fans, Garber said:
"There's no place for that kind of play in MLS. We'll be announcing his suspension soon and it will be in line with similar nasty tackles."
This is merely days after Bruce Arena spoke to the press regarding the incident saying:
“I think it's hysteria, I think, obviously, Nigel has to understand this; he has a reputation that precedes him. If that was any other player in that tackle, it would not have received the hysteria that it has.”
He then went on to blame social media, and even the league for driving this narrative, saying:
“Hysteria is the fault of social media. It's the fault of people in MLS and in the offices that do that and feeds the whole thing. And the journalism.”
And the journalism indeed. Phrasing and strangely lashing out at Twitter aside, Don Garber took some issue with Bruce’s comments:
"It's an absurd and irresponsible comment to think that the league would want to promote something that negatively reflects on our game," said Garber. It's just ridiculous. Stuart has a very personal experience with Nigel. That's what broadcasters do. That debate is something that the media is entitled to drive on its own, and a league is not part of that process. Bruce is part of our Technical Committee. He's one of the leaders of the sport in our country, and I know that he has been an advocate for ensuring that we're not having dangerous and reckless tackles on the field. When I thought about his comments, because I read them, it said to me, and in many ways I respect, that coaches need to defend their players, particularly a guy like Nigel who I understand is a good guy. But to think that we intentionally created this narrative is just ridiculous. I've heard from Bruce Arena, I've heard from Chris Klein, and I've heard from some players," said Garber. "Nigel is a good guy. I don't think we should be attacking him as a man. We should do everything in our power to not have that kind of play on our field. That's not coming from Don Garber, Todd Durbin and our Disciplinary Committee. That's coming from our owners, that's coming from our coaches, the Technical Committee. And all of the postgame discipline that we do, in partnership with our union, is very, very specific to protect our players. And particularly our goal scorers and our star players, those ones that people pay to see.It's not the first time something like this has happened in our game, not just by Nigel, but by others, and it's just something that we all as a sport need to work to eliminate. But I'm sure we'll have this discussion again at some point soon about another player and another bad tackle.”
At some point this story has to end, and hopefully it ends with a fair suspension for a reckless challenge and the shortest stint on the sidelines possible for Darlington Nagbe. The Los Angeles Galaxy take on Houston in Friday Night Soccer this evening. Nigel de Jong will not be eligible to play.