MLS Commissioner Don Garber had a busy day in Texas on Saturday. Garber visited Austin to speak at South by Southwest and also had a meeting at the US Council of Mayors. After his visit in Austin, Garber was at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston to take in the Houston Dynamo v Columbus Crew SC game.
Before the game, Garber spoke with the media on a number of topics. I got the chance to ask him about the recent US Soccer policy on standing for the national anthem, and whether there was any mandate coming down from US Soccer to MLS.
Garber, “Well, there wouldn’t be any mandate coming down from US Soccer to MLS. It’s different than many other countries throughout the world; but similar to Mexico, our FA, US Soccer, and the league are independent of each other. I was asked this question at South by Southwest this morning, and I said what I’ll say to you folks. I’m on the board of US Soccer, I was involved in the debate that took place around our board table. We felt very strongly that if you are given the honor of being called up to play for your country, and you’re going to wear our flag on your chest, you should stand for the national anthem. And if you don’t want to do that, you don’t have to accept the call up, because there are dozens and dozens of other people who would probably enjoy that honor. We also followed kind of the guideline, if you will, sort of a referential indicator for us, was that if you’re – US Soccer is a national governing body, it’s under the auspices of the United States Olympic committee – and if you are given the honor to represent your country with USA swimming, and you win a gold medal, you have to stand for the national anthem."
On Major League Soccer having a similar policy regarding the national anthem:
Garber, "Major League Soccer is a private enterprise. We don’t have, and there are leagues who do have rules, we don’t have a rule that requires a player to stand. Each team has come out and spoke to their players about what they would hope to see, but we’ve not had to address that last year, we’ve not had to address that so far after last week, and my view is that we live in a country that celebrates the right of free expression, and I would imagine that if someone decided not to stand, certainly the league would not force them to do something different. Not quite sure what an individual owner would do, and they have the right to make that decision.”
Garber also spoke on other topics such as TAM, promotion and relegation, the US travel ban. You can see his full press conference below.