MOSCOW — Mexico is in the World Cup, the United States is not, and to former U.S. national team star Landon Donovan, American fans without a rooting interest should support their chief rivals.
The message: In a time of political and cultural division, we should celebrate our many bonds and set aside decades of sporting animosity for a few fun weeks. From a soccer point of view, one could make the case that what’s good for Mexico is good for Concacaf, a region eternally toiling in the shadows of Europe and South America.
Donovan’s appeal did not go over well with former teammates who experienced those epic — and often nasty — battles with Mexico.
There was Carlos Bocanegra, who, after responding on Twitter by asking, “Really?”, received an inappropriate lecture from the national team’s career scoring leader in which he cited the former U.S. captain’s father.
There was Cobi Jones, the recipient of Rafael Marquez’s flying head butt in the 2002 World Cup round of 16. (FIFA suspended the defender for four matches and fined him for that malicious act.)
There was Taylor Twellman, now an ESPN analyst:
And there was Herculez Gomez, another forward-turned-announcer, who took Donovan to task for his response to Bocanegra:
On the surface, maybe Donovan just wants everyone to get along and, if that means cheering for El Tri against reigning champion Germany on Sunday, then Americans, Mexicans, Mexican Americans and all others who love the sport in the United States should unite.
A few days ago, the United States and Mexico were part of an alliance with Canada in winning the right to host the 2026 World Cup. Without cooperation among the three countries, we might have been making plans for Morocco in eight years. During the stretch run of the campaign, federation presidents Carlos Cordeiro and Decio de Maria seemed to become good friends.
Although he was a high-profile combatant for years in the U.S.-Mexico rivalry — and regularly derided by Mexican fans — Donovan has embraced the cultural and athletic ties. Growing up in Southern California, he learned Spanish at a young age and often consented to interviews in his second language. Early this year, at 35, he returned from retirement for the second time to join Mexican club Leon.
Some U.S. fans will embrace Donovan’s appeal to support Mexico; others will not. Most probably made up their minds a long time ago.
No matter what side you fall on, one aspect of this unsavory episode should leave a particularly bad taste in your mouth: Donovan is pitching this message on behalf of a corporation that did terrible things to a lot of people — Americans, Mexican Americans, all colors and creeds.
In April, Wells Fargo was fined $1 billion — not $1 million, but $1 billion — for failing to catch problems in its auto and mortgage businesses over several years and costing customers millions. More than 5,000 employees were fired for opening millions of fake accounts in customers’ names.
From a Washington Post story:
Wells Fargo charged thousands of customers for auto insurance they did not need, driving some to default on their loans, then improperly confiscated the vehicles. The bank also improperly charged some customers fees to lock in an interest rate for a mortgage.
Separately, “a 29-year-old bank teller stole more than $185,000 from a homeless customer who tried to deposit a garbage bag full of cash at a Wells Fargo branch in Georgetown.”
To win back trust — and customers — the banking giant is now on a major public relations kick. You’ve probably seen the TV commercial featuring The Black Keys (really, guys?) and the iconic stagecoach bounding through the West. And Donovan, who has had a relationship with Wells Fargo since at least 2015, is part of it.
So while Donovan’s “Go Mexico” message is at the center of this social-media spitball fight, issuing it in partnership with a tarnished company should also draw scrutiny. Maybe he should reconsider that endorsement deal.
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