The View From 101 by Tim Hall
My column last week regarding some of the issues and complaints pointed at the national leadership of the American Outlaws – currently the largest US National Team support group – generated a lot of interest, and as ever, I am thankful for the looks and the kind words. It’s always rather reassuring to know that you’re not just shouting into a deep empty well.
Still, it was not without criticism. Some people complained that I didn’t do my journalistic duty by attempting to get the American Outlaws response to the claims being made. And, well, that’s true, I did not. Why? Well, the reasons are myriad. For one, there is a limit in the space I have to get all of these thoughts out.
Two, I have it on good authority that, were I to wait for a reply from AO National to my questions, my column would have finally been printed on the eleventeenth of Neveruary.
Third, since their inception, the American Outlaws have been the subject of literally nothing but positive, glowing, gushing press about just how swell they are, and in none of those articles is the alternative viewpoint presented. It strikes me as rather odd and frankly dishonest that people are requesting equal representation in my column when no one is beating down the doors at some of the big websites demanding their puff pieces be a bit more balanced.
Fourth, I am not a journalist.
Fifth, it is important to give voice to the marginalized, disenfranchised and voiceless, and some of those people who have had negative experiences with the American Outlaws have come forward willing to share their stories, and as we go forward, I hope to bring their stories to light. Sixth, and somewhat tellingly, there was absolutely no complaining about the content of the article, nor about the points and questions that were raised, which would seem to indicate that there is some worry and mistrust lying just underneath the surface for even the most ardent supporter of the AO movement, but not enough to bubble through, and instead the immediate reaction is to defend, defend and defend some more. Completely understandable. It’s a natural reaction to take when someone is attempting to question something you hold close.
And on, and on, and on. But I realize that all of my well thought out reasons will sound just like excuses to those that want to view them that way, and that’s fine. Something about pleasing all the people all the time and so forth.
But please allow me to show you that your criticisms and queries have not fallen on deaf ears. I do have questions for the leadership of the American Outlaws, as I’m sure many of you do as well. And so, in this very public forum, I will list them below, and I will email a copy of them to the powers-that-be, and should they respond, I will gladly share their responses as much as possible. And then, I’m sure people will find something else to complain about. Perhaps a dangling participle or some other unimaginable sin. Regardless:
Are there plans for, at any point in the future, an election for American Outlaws national positions of leadership? If so, when? If not, why not? Continuing on that theme, if no elections are planned, what would be the expected outcome should one of the current AO leaders be unable to fulfill their current roles due to – heaven forbid – some medical emergency? Or, if one of the current leaders was found to be misappropriating funds? Or, anything? What is the club’s plan to deal with such an eventuality? And without elections, how can membership feel that there is accountability from leadership that they cannot recall, vote out, or in any other way have recourse against?
In the specific instance of the AO Detroit chapter, why did one man’s thoughts on his personal Twitter account, which was in no way linked to the official club account, be grounds for his termination as chapter president? When said tweets became an issue, National leadership in the form of Mr. Donahoo alerted the chapter president that elections would have to take place for his replacement. Why are elections at the local level a more pressing matter than at the national level? And if these local elections for leadership are paramount, why then was power allowed to be transferred to a new chapter president without a vote by members?
Would you please clarify the relationship between the American Outlaws national leadership and TenDot travel, the company responsible for arranging travel for AO members to the World Cup in Brazil? Are there any familial relationships between AO leadership and any employees of TenDot? If so, was that potential conflict of interest explored so as not to cost membership extra money for the sake of providing business to a relative?
Continuing on the theme of travel to Brazil, would you speak to the reports of numerous delays, rerouting and confusion on one of those AO flights to Brazil that allegedly made members very nearly miss the first US group stage game? Was there national American Outlaws leadership on that flight that could have, or did, act to assuage the concerns of traveling members, act as a liaison between the carriers and members, or in any other way lead the club?
On a similar note, there were reports that senior American Outlaws leadership were not on the flight or flights to Brazil with the paying AO members, but instead were invited to fly down to Brazil on the private flight of the US Soccer Federation. Is this true? As a club that bills itself as an “independent” supporters group, how does leadership justify that claim against the acceptance of such an offer from the very people you claim to be “independent” from?
What is the current financial status of the American Outlaws? How much money is in the official AO bank account, if one exists? Why does leadership not feel like this information should be provided to members regularly? How much money, for any calendar or fiscal year of your choosing, goes to leadership traveling to games or in any other way impacts the lives of the national leadership, and how much goes to anything else? Do any or all of the leadership draw a stipend or a salary for their work?
Perhaps if we get answers to some of these questions, we’ll have a better grasp on where this club, and American support is going. We can only hope.
Saturday, August 23: New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact – It’s something like Nerd Christmas this Saturday, as the Empire Supporters Club hosts Forza Lucha, the annual pro wrestling pre-game party at El Pastor (570 Market St. Newark). You don’t have to like wrestling or soccer. You don’t even need to like fun. Just understand that money is being raised for the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children based in Newark. If that’s not a good enough reason to come out, nothing is.