Obama, MLS need each other
The contentious nature of politics drives even the best of politicians to the brink. It’s at this point, when sports has been brought up as a topic to bring levity to a broad audience and show a more human politician. Sports, at many moments, is the light among all of the dark, heavy topics of the day.
Either on the campaign trail or while in office, like Presidents before him, President Obama has used sports to buy political points and to show a side rarely seen, the sports fan in him. He has referenced a college football playoff and made his picks for college basketball during March Madness. He is a consummate sports fan, throwing out the first pitch at baseball games and frequently mentioning his passion for the Chicago pro teams.
He has also shown support for the World Cup, the international influence of Soccer and his daughter’s games. But, his relationship with U.S. pro Soccer has been completely ignored with the exception of a customary invitation to the White House (Columbus Crew following 2008 season). This lack of involvement with U.S. pro Soccer may not be all his fault. It could also be a misstep by MLS and their own out of touch marketing efforts with sports fans.
It’s debatable whether Obama needs to get involved in the looming players strike of MLS. The President would not be able to halt a strike by players and force them back on the field, but he could make some calls and ask both sides to make concessions or keep discussions ongoing while the calendar of games continues.
This type of thing has a precedent. Presidents have been mediators for affairs involving unions of air traffic controllers and pilots. Of course, these professions and their effects on the flow of business are much grander in their relation to infrastructure and society than U.S. pro Soccer.
It’s probably true that the looming strike is not on President Obama’s radar, but maybe it should be. Certainly, there may be some political points to gain. Though for President Obama and MLS, who both seem to need each other, the bigger issue is not being a hero to a strike, rather, being a sports fan to a game that needs sports fans.
What President Obama should do is wait for the players to take the field again and than show up to a game. In fact, MLS and their power executives should be working towards inviting him publicly to a game (i.e. an advertisement in the Washington Post or USA Today for the next Chicago Fire at D.C. United).
If attending, Obama gets a much needed light moment in his political day, makes points with Soccer fans, while MLS gets publicity and the Obama presence and touch. It’s possible, Obama stays for the whole game, really enjoys himself with his family and states his enthusiasm for Soccer and MLS at the podium the next day.
Interestingly, a U.S. sitting President or past President has not attended an MLS game, Obama could be the first.