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Don Garber didn't say MLS was rigged, but he didn't convincingly not say it either

Whatever you thought about MLS before Don Garber's latest comments, you likely won't find he said anything to change your mind.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to TSN for posting not just context but the entire Q & A between MLS Commissioner Don Garber and gathered media in Vancouver from which this memorable quote emerged:

Say what? You rigged the league, Don? And you're telling us this thing we long suspected now because why?

Well, no. The MLS Commissioner is not saying the league is a sham competition.The fuller context of his answer was neatly transcribed by soccer site Away From The Numbers:


So, in the very limited context of a helping financial hand to clubs seeking to boost their rosters with players who might raise the profile of the league, MLS was in the business of helping a particular club land a particular transfer target. And it isn't in that business any more, except that it is because the league is going to help Canadian clubs land Canadian Designated Players.

Got it, Don. MLS doesn't do that thing it used to do that it is still doing. Don't know how you could have made it any simpler.

It wasn't the only slightly puzzling pronouncement that sprang from the agile mind of the Commissioner.

You never fail to make us think, Don.

Anyway, in its full context, Garber's "MLS was rigged but isn't any longer" comment clearly isn't that at all. Indeed, he has a shot at the argument that sharing the expense of some expensive players with some clubs isn't a competitive advantage - it's an incentive. An incentive for owners to put more money into the league.

Manifestly, Garber didn't think he was starting a conversation about opaque schemes to manipulate MLS. If anything, he thought he was ending it. And in their proper context, his comments neither challenge nor advance the claim that the league indulges in tilting its playing field to favor outcomes that benefit its commercial objectives over its obligation to principles of sport.

If you were inclined to think MLS is meddling with its competition, Garber didn't say much to change your mind. If you were inclined to think the league is just a sports venture like any other, doing no more or less than any other to stay solvent while honoring the game it serves - that is Garber's core message, always.

Take your pick. There is support in the Commissioner's latest comments for either point of view. (He offers an interesting insight into the league's refereeing and disciplinary standards around the 18:25 mark of the recording supplied by TSN.)