-Bill Currie, Editor, BC Soccer Web
Soccer has brought us to the United States many times. It’s a great place with decent people. We especially look forward to our Cascadia trips to Seattle and Portland. They’re incredible cities with wonderful supporters.
That’s why it was so disheartening to see chaos and fear take hold in the airports and borders of our neighbours to the south. In a thinly-veiled attack on Muslims, Donald Trump’s order led to law-abiding people who had valid visas being detained and treated like criminals. Some were deported, despite court orders protecting them. It was a shameful event in a country most of the world looks to as a beacon of freedom and equality. As a friend of the United States, it was absolutely shocking to see.
Our part of the world is built on immigrants from everywhere. We live with them. We work with them. We play soccer with them. There are so many Canadian players of Iranian, Iraqi and Somali descent and others in Vancouver alone that could have easily gotten caught in this dragnet. There are Muslim players in MLS, USL, NASL, PDL and other cross-border leagues that now have legitimate reasons to fear for their well-being at a border point. It is a fear that is recognized instantly by those who have come from autocratic nations. It is state-sponsored discrimination.
I know most Americans, especially our friends in Cascadia, realize how wrong and short-sighted this is. Many of you have courageously spoken out. Players from your national teams and leagues have voiced their opposition. We’re still waiting for MLS, USL & NASL to express their views. As a global game, soccer does not have the luxury of silence on this issue.
In British Columbia, many soccer supporters and players are deciding for themselves whether it is right or safe to travel to the U.S. for soccer events under these circumstances. For Canadians who are Muslim, safety at border checkpoints is a serious concern. For many, seeing one Canadian supporter refused entry on the basis of religion is enough to affect their travel plans. These issues conflict with the simple desire to play soccer or support a club. They’re also aware that not travelling hurts our friends and businesses in Seattle and Portland; cities we each pour thousands of dollars into, and who are overwhelmingly against what has happened. It’s not easy.
Individually, these choices are being made. At BC Soccer Web, we have made ours.
Until this discrimination ends, and rule of law is restored at U.S. border points, we will not be travelling to the United States. We will continue our coverage of the U.S. leagues we share, but will pour more of our resources into British Columbia and Canada. We hope this is a temporary measure.
Yes, we are only one voice, and alone may not make much difference. That’s not the point. Our goal is to let others who are affected or oppose these measures know that they are not alone. We cannot enjoy a soccer match if players or supporters who have followed the rules are not allowed safe passage into the country because of their religion.
That is not the America we know. We hope it will be again.