As soon as VAR determined that Clint Dempsey deserved a red card for swiping his arm at Jacori Hayes, there was at least a fear that he would receive more than the single-game ban mandated. He was, after all, a repeat offender for both off-the-ball arm swings and for hitting people in the junk.
But after several weeks passed with no announcement, it seemed like Dempsey was in the clear.
We found out on Thursday that wasn’t the case, as the MLS Disciplinary Committee finally got around to announcing an additional game ban. That immediately led many of us to openly wonder why it took MLS so long to issue this ruling?
It was eventually revealed that the Sounders had at least known about the possibility of further punishment since the previous week. But for many of us, the point wasn’t so much that the Sounders were being put at a competitive disadvantage. It was that the public was kept in the dark for so long, without a compelling reason why.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times actually tried to find out and was told by various sources that Dempsey’s refusal to meet with the disciplinary board was at least part of the delay.
While I don’t doubt that Baker’s reporting is effectively accurate, it also falls short of offering a reasonable justification for taking 25 days to announce the decision.
According to Baker’s reporting, there was no deadline placed on Dempsey to respond to the request to talk to the board. That alone seems rather ridiculous. If MLS were interested in issuing a judgment in a timely fashion, they could have simply placed a deadline on a response and then issued their judgment once it was missed. The idea that Dempsey again caused delay when he “took some time letting players’ union officials know whether he wanted them to appeal the decision on his behalf.” Again, if MLS had any interest in issuing a timely decision, they could have simply demanded an answer.
It’s equally interesting that despite Baker’s apparent requests that no one from the league office was willing to go on the record or put their name on any of this, instead preferring to imply that Sounders fans should be annoyed with Dempsey for not acting faster.
My guess is that MLS was hoping for Dempsey to show some contrition and were happy to give him ample time to do so. How annoyed fans might be to find out this information just days before a game — and the heels of a very poor start — was, at best, a secondary concern. That people at the league office are now sharing this info suggests they were not expecting fans to be as upset as they are.
There’s obviously room to be frustrated with Dempsey, too. If you’re of the mind that he committed something reasonably construed as “violent conduct”, you should be mad. But I don’t think any of us should find it remotely surprising that Dempsey wasn’t inclined to beg for leniency when his likely version of events — that he wasn’t trying to hit anyone — is a reasonable interpretation of the video that’s available. He probably didn’t think anything he said was likely to change the disciplinary committee’s collective mind.
In the end, MLS is the body with the power in this situation. Announcing the suspension in a timely manner should have been a prime objective. It wasn’t. That needs to be fixed in the future.