Two Soccer Coaches Sue Pro Team for Bias

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Two coaches sued Major League Soccer team Chivas USA for discrimination, claiming the team harassed and fired them as it dumped all its non-Latino staff and players.
     Daniel Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos sued Chivas USA Soccer and its affiliates in Superior Court.
     Calichman, 45, and Chronopoulos, 40, say they lost their jobs as youth team coaches after Chivas USA said it planned to go back to its “Mexican roots.”
     “Specifically, the defendants, at the behest of Chivas USA’s new sole owner, Jorge Vergara, sought to import and implement similar discriminatory employment practices to those practiced by Chivas de Guadalajara – a professional Mexican soccer team that systematically refuses to field any non-Mexican individuals. Rather than base their employment decisions solely on considerations of merit or skills as do all other MLS franchises – Chivas USA management unlawfully makes personnel decisions on the basis of ethnicity and national origin,” the complaint states.
     Since the early 1900s, Chivas de Guadalajara had nearly always fielded only natural-born Mexicans, or players of Mexican descent, according to the complaint.
     Vergara, a Mexican businessman, bought Chivas de Guadalajara in 2002 and co-founded Chivas USA two years later, the complaint states. The team competed in Major League Soccer for the first time in 2005.
     Chivas USA shares the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., with the MLS champions, Los Angeles Galaxy.
     Vergara, who is not a party to the lawsuit, bought out his partners last summer to become sole owner of team, according to the Los Angeles Times.
     Calichman and Chronopoulos claim they had coached at the Chivas USA Youth Academy for more than a year when they learned the team wanted a purely Mexican-American roster and coaching staff.
     “On or about November 13, 2012, Mr. Vergara – now the sole owner and highest ranking senior executive at Chivas USA – called a mandatory meeting of all employees, including plaintiff Mr. Chronopoulos. At the meeting, Mr. Vergara intentionally humiliated all employees who were neither Mexican nor Latino. Mr. Vergara brazenly announced that all non-Spanish speaking employees would be fired. He asked, publicly, for those employees who were able to speak Spanish to raise their hands (he initially asked the question in Spanish and then repeated it in English). He then asked employees who spoke English to raise their hands. After publicly identifying those employees who did not speak Spanish, he announced that those employees who did not speak Spanish would no longer be able to work at Chivas USA,” the complaint states.
     “As he further stated, ‘If you don’t speak Spanish, you can go work for the Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language.'”
     After lodging harassment and discrimination complaints with Chivas USA and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Calichman and Chronopoulos say, they were suspended and then fired in March.
     Chivas USA’s investigation into the discrimination was virtually nonexistent, the coaches say.
     “Since Mr. Vergara became the sole owner of Chivas USA, the organization has culled and virtually eliminated all non-Latino employees from the Chivas USA Academy,” the complaint states.
     The coaches cite a Los Angeles Times article to reinforce their claims.
     The Times reported on March 1 that Vergara had “remade the roster, ridding the team of 14 players and bringing in 11 new ones who have never played in MLS.”
     “New Chivas manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola says the moves were made for soccer reasons and not based on ethnicity,” the Times reported. “But just one of the 14 players cut loose has Mexican nationality, while 10 of the additions are either Mexican-born or have Mexican parents, making them eligible to compete for both Chivas USA and Chivas de Guadalajara, which has never used a non-Mexican player in its 107 years.”
     Calichman, a defender, made 58 appearances for Los Angeles Galaxy, from 1996 to 1998. He was a team captain team for three seasons. He ended his MLS career playing for the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes. He was a member of the U.S. national team in 1997.
     Chronopoulos, a midfielder and defender, made 144 appearances for the New England Revolution before closing the curtain on his MLS career at the Metrostars in 2002. He retired in 2005, having represented his country as a late substitute in a 1997 victory over Israel.
     The coaches seek damages and punitive damages for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful firing and other charges.
     Also named as defendants are Chivas USA Enterprises, Chivas USA Futbol Education, Insperity, and Insperity Business Services.
     The coaches are represented by Gregory Helmer of Helmer + Friedman of Culver City.
     Chivas USA did not immediately respond to a request for comment made after business hours Tuesday.
     Chiva is Spanish for a female goat.

%d bloggers like this: