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The Athletic’s reporting has reportedly riled up MLS commissioner Don Garber

So, what might be going on here?

Tottenham Hotspur Pre-Season Tour To The US - Day 2
ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando
Photo by Manuela Davies/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

The Athletic has dominated reporting on the MLS plan to play matches in quarantine in Orlando.

We’ve learned through The Athletic’s work that MLS Commissioner Don Garber is unhappy about the leaks that led to the coverage. In fact, The Athletic reports Garber sent out a memo threatening punishment to anyone caught leaking info to reporters. The memo also suggests the league has hired an investigative team to figure out who is talking.

In other words, the memo about shutting down leaks was leaked to reporters.

Prior to writing for Hot Time, I worked as an investigative news reporter and investigative TV news producer, with a specialty in covering politics and government. So, I’m very familiar with sources and leaks, and the motivations behind them.

I can tell you people generally don’t leak something to make someone upset. A person leaking something to the press faces a huge amount of risk, so they generally do it with the idea that public scrutiny will help improve something. As a reporter, that weighs heavily on you. That’s why I never reveal my sources, even years after a story is done, even to friends.

So, here’s my guess about what’s happening here: Garber feels the leaks could potentially sway the players toward banding together and not playing in Orlando. Garber wants to show he’s doing everything to get matches to the league’s TV partners, namely ESPN in this case, since the matches would take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus. It’s likely the person or people behind the leaks feel like public pressure or attention could help them achieve a goal here. Maybe that’s shutting down Orlando entirely, or maybe there are specific details they’d want to change.

The funny thing is, back in April it was Garber himself who initially floated the idea of playing a closed door tournament to restart the season, in a round of interviews with ESPN, TSN and TUDN.

I suspect most players want to find a solution that allows them to get back to soccer as soon as safely possible. Brandt Bronico said as much in an interview with the Sun-Times’ Brian Sandalow over the weekend.

Former league MVP Mike Magee told Hot Time last week he’d want to play in Orlando, but if fellow players were against it, and the league couldn’t sufficiently address their concerns, the players should remain united and not play.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of people involved we could speak to, and get a really good grasp,” Magee said. “And, if at the end of that, they couldn’t convince us, I think the players would probably have to band together and not play. But, I’d be dying to play. I’m dying to play now, and I can’t even move anymore.”

The fact that there are leaks, and that Garber is reportedly upset about those leaks, shows us something is off right now—whether it has to do with safety, being isolated for two months away from loved ones, or another issue—there’s a concern not being addressed.

Hopefully it gets sorted out, whether that means Orlando is a go, or the league waits to restart in some other form. Until then, hopefully The Athletic keeps up the great work.