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An Ill Fit (or: How MLS's deal with the US Boy Scouts Is Bad Marketing)

Seriously? The BSA can sponsor a racecar? So...why is MLS jumping on board again? Oh right, the ticket sales. 
CREDIT: Nick Laham/Getty Images
Seriously? The BSA can sponsor a racecar? So...why is MLS jumping on board again? Oh right, the ticket sales. CREDIT: Nick Laham/Getty Images
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Yesterday, after two years of discussion, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decided that they would uphold their policy of denying membership to those who are "open or avowed homosexuals". Now you might be wondering why this would concern us here in MLS land: that's because about six months ago, the league signed a partnership agreement with the BSA.

For a league that is trying to project an image of openness, it looks like an ill fit to me -- our friends over at Gay4Soccer weren't exactly fans of the deal knowing the BSA's history, and preached walking a fine line. Yesterday's decision will likely galvanize opinions on both sides of this moral debate, but one has to wonder: was MLS's front office asleep at the wheel when they decided this?

Granted, I was a scout in my youth in the Canadian system (which unlike their American counterparts, is much more progressive in their outlook when it comes to LGBT members) and it has taught my a number of valuable life skills. For a similar group to openly deny that opportunity to a select segment of the population "just because", and for MLS to jump on board with them, seems to mean a lack of foresight, or a lack of a moral compass in the pursuit of more ticket sales (as Fake Sigi may suggest.)

While it's natural for the league to use the "it's for the kids" response to these charges, it's simply not enough to explain away the roots of the BSA's issues with openness. There are other groups out there that are just as, if not more, inclusive -- as Gay4Soccer noted, groups like Boys and Girls Clubs of America and even the Girl Scouts serve almost the same functions as the BSA, without hiding behind the Bible to bar people from entry. So why isn't MLS jumping on board with them?

Plus, this isn't a new problem either: as far back as 2000, when an openly gay scoutmaster took the BSA to the Supreme Court and lost, the BSA has staunchly refused to change (unlike their Canadian counterparts) -- and has spent two years navel gazing only to come up with the same result. As the Hives might say, that is the definition of madness.

I will give credit where credit is due -- MLS did jump on board with the "You Can Play" foundation, but after getting aboard with the BSA, it almost seems as though it's blatant opportunism; a way to try to atone for the BSA's discriminatory practices by signing up with an advocacy group that directly counters them in another way. It's like trying to put mashed peaches in a banana bread, ans still trying to call it that: people will see through that ruse, and I for one am not convinced.

For once, MLS, would it kill you to stop and think of the consequences when it comes to partnerships? Even if what you are doing it for the kids, the organization and its policies will always come to the forefront -- and will be invariably tied to whatever motive. Our friend the Ginge over at Dynamo Theory makes a great point on this matter -- that whatever hard work is done to help kids, invariably will be undone by the narrow world view of the BSA. So the whole idea of doing it for the kids, will ultimately help drive others away instead.

If MLS truly believes that spending the money on the BSA is worth it, perhaps they should also look at pursuing a deal with Scouts Canada for Canada's three teams? Maybe in that way, they can see what true scouting without discrimination is all about, and in turn demand that BSA follow the Canadian model if they want more MLS cash. That way, we can truly be confident that when the league says it's inclusive, it really actually lives by those words.