To make a gross understatement, It’s been a bad week for the local Men’s professional soccer outfit. The Chicago Fire are in the midst of two crises that have popped up over the international break. Thursday, a Pro Publica story shed light on the Chicago Housing Authority reneging on its promises to replace several public housing projects with replacement affordable housing. Instead, the land has been granted to various public and private commercial interests, the latest of which is the Chicago Fire’s potential new headquarters and training facility. The second scandal involves their high-profile play-by-play commentator Arlo White, formerly of NBC’s Premier League coverage. He has joined Saudi Arabia’s latest sportswashing endeavor, the LIV Golf tour as their announcer, potentially ruining his reputation and future job prospects.
The CHA debacle is more equitable in where the blame goes. The most moral and ethical thing for the Fire to do is to back out of the deal and not profit from the housing crisis and the CHA’s incompetence. However, the Fire has very few options about finding and purchasing land in the city that's big enough for a headquarters and training facility. They also aren’t the first organization to be offered land earmarked for affordable housing by the CHA. While the Fire are or will be guilty of moral if not legal wrongdoing, the majority of culpability is with CHA, and their shady practices.
Meanwhile, the situation with White is more clear-cut. White got his bag to commentate on LIV Golf tour. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the LIV Golf tour is an upstart golf league looking to break the stranglehold the PGA Tour system has over the top level of the sport. And it’s the newest way the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking to launder their reputation of human rights abuses and being journalist murderers. There is no ambiguity here. A commentator contracted to the club decided to take money to be the voice of a reputation (and probably money) laundering scheme.
It was pointed out by Sun-Times writer (and friend) Brian Sandalow that the Fire don’t have a lot to gain by keeping Arlo on board. He was hired for his reputation and good name in the soccer sphere, which has surely taken a massive hit due to his decision. Are a few play-by-play appearances and a podcast worth tying the organization? At this point, the value of Arlo White’s contributions to the club are minimal. Breaking up Tyler Terens and Tony Meola, who have become a solid broadcast duo and do a genuinely good job, just so you can stick a recognizable name in the booth whose reputation is sullied anyway is a dumb decision.
Unlike the CHA decision, the Fire should have no real qualms separating themselves from White and his current main employer. With the CHA, the Fire doesn’t have many other options if they want to exit their “roommates but still divorced” situation they have with Bridgeview, and while they should be shamed for the scummy land deal, the lion’s share of the blame should go to the Chicago Housing Authority for not building housing there in the first place. With Arlo, they should have no such hesitation. He has to go before it becomes a bigger stain on the club.