Leroux Opens Debate on National Identity

Leroux’ s goal celebration once again shows how national team soccer brings out the deepest feelings in many
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, June 06, 2013

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

On Monday, June 3, Sidney Leroux, a Canadian-born United States Women’s National Team player tweeted the following: “When you chant racial slurs, taunt me and talk about my family don't be mad when I shush you and show pride in what I represent. #america".

This related to her reaction after scoring the final goal in the American 3-0 win over Canada the night before.

Many Canadian fans took this as an accusation of racism towards the fans at BMO Field and the supporters groups as whole, mostly because of the wording and timing of the tweet. Due to this perception, a heavy debate ensued on Twitter. This debate was allowed to last an entire day until US Soccer and Leroux clarified the day after that the abuse came during 2012 Olympic qualifying in Vancouver and via social media.

It is, however, still unclear whether this so-called abuse came from individuals or groups and Duane Rollins of canadiansoccernews.com has taken on the task of listening through the game to find evidence of any racial abuse.

Twitter can be an unforgiving place for a controversial character such as Leroux, and the ambiguous wording of the tweet and the fact that it took her and US Soccer an entire to day clarify allowed the argument to escalate way to much.

Everyone has a breaking point, and while not racial slurs, it wasn't exactly pleasantries that the Voyageurs were shouting at Leroux during the game. Had the clarification come faster, I actually believe most Canadian fans would have understood her decision to shush the fans in stadium to some extent.

Racial abuse or not, it is clear that Leroux is not a popular character in the world of Canadian soccer. One argument is purely emotional and attacks the fact that she switched, while another is more practical pointing out that as a youth player for Canada, Leroux took away resources that could have been used on a player that would in fact end up playing for Canada.

While uncomfortable, Leroux should also understand her position vis-à-vis the Canadian fans and why they attack her. Obviously, she shouldn’t accept racial slurs, but she should understand that national soccer is about feelings and passion and that her decision is bound to create a negative reaction, and her celebration in front of the Canadian fans isn’t exactly helping her to get them off her back. I’d like to see the US fans’ reaction when Giuseppe Rossi or Neven Subotic shushes the American Outlaws after scoring a 3-0 goal on US soil. Don’t tell me there won’t be a similar reaction.

As the world becomes more and more intertwined, more players face the option to play for multiple countries. It is a question of identity, heritage, personal experiences and money. The truth is that the country you represent can strongly influence your ability to attract sponsorships and it was indicated in the latest episode of the Counter Attack podcast, that part of Leroux’s motivation to switch was that it was the best career move.  

This is especially important in women’s soccer, as wages are small and the club situation has been very unstable, the US market is a lot bigger than the Canadian one and it may well financially be better to play for the US rather than Canada.

While this doesn't fit the ideal of national team soccer, it is easier to understand, if not accept, this reasoning in women’s soccer. We aren’t talking about multimillionaires here, so while changing national teams for financial gain doesn’t feel right, I won’t condemn the women who do it to the same extent as men.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.