Soccer Club Owner Out After Tweeting Support For Trump
The region’s only current professional soccer franchise, the Arizona United, is finishing up its season in Peoria this month. But it’s been a tumultuous year for the team and its fans as they try to attract a diverse new following in the West Valley.
Unwanted controversy surrounded the United’s former owner over his support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, proving again that sports and politics usually don’t mix.
Wiso Vazquez is a blogger who covers Mexican and Western soccer for the website www.futmexsource.com.
Late last month he was watching his Twitter feed when the owner of the Arizona United, Kyle Eng, posted a picture of himself at a Trump rally with Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence.
Vasquez quickly retweeted the image and its caption with the headline: “United CEO and founder supports Pence and Trump and uses winning team and Trump Train as a hashtag.”
The reaction to his retweet was swift and negative from the Latino fan-base that supported the United.
“It wasn’t good that the owner that they support is specifically supporting a candidate that has said so many bad things about Mexicans and specifically immigrants,” Vasquez said.
Marco Medina one of the fans who felt betrayed.
He leads a supporter group called La Hermandad that shows up at all the games trying to rally the team and recruit new soccer fans to help the struggling franchise.
“La Hermandad has basically been doing its own outreach to the community.” Medina said.
“We’ve been going to the community soccer games and basically reaching out and saying ‘hey have you heard of Arizona United, would you go?’”
Medina said his group was offended.
“When you have an individual that associates himself with Donald Trump, his face now becomes tied in with the club, which for my community there’s quite a bit of animosity for,” Medina said.
Vasquez said separating the soccer from the politics is difficult, especially for the group of fans that read his blog — Trump’s name is a lightning rod to them.
“This candidate and this type of political fight that’s happening is very, very personal to people, especially to the Mexican community,” he said.
Then Vasquez said something completely unexpected happened.
“When the tweets came out and the controversy [ensued] the team contacted a few members of the media that cover Arizona United and said hey, we do have announcement scheduled for tomorrow,” he said.
That announcement was that the United’s principal owner, Kyle Eng, the man pictured in the tweet supporting the Trump/Pence ticket, was selling his stake in the team.
“This little tweet controversy happened probably two, three weeks after we were able to negotiate the sale of my shares,” Eng said. “One had nothing to do with the other.”
But fans of the United didn’t know that at the time. Vasquez said Eng showed no remorse for offending his fan base.
“Didn’t take it down. Didn’t say anything, like ‘I’m sorry if I offended anyone with it,’ and even more fought with his own fans because at that moment no one knew there was going to be a change, he was still the CEO,” Vasquez said.
Eng, who owns a West Valley advertising and marketing firm, said he didn’t have to do any of that and maintains his support for Trump should have nothing to do with the team or its fans.
“I’m proud to have met Mike Pence. I’m proud to support Donald Trump. If fans feel differently, then they feel differently,” Eng said.
“But I don’t think that you can draw the conclusion that just because you support a candidate now they have the right to call me a racist or say that I was crapping on the Hispanic community.”
But Eng, who is Asian-American, said he does regret how it all unfolded.
“Do I think I could have worded it differently, sure. If fans got upset, I apologize for getting them upset, but I think an opportunity to express ourselves, that’s what social media is for,” he said.
Meanwhile, the team’s new owners say they’ll stay out of politics and stick to soccer.
David Farca, who grew up in Mexico, is the Arizona United’s new president.
“We as a soccer club are not going to take any political stance and we welcome fans from both sides of the aisle,” Farca said.
But Farca said the new ownership group will be more sensitive to the needs of its main fan base.
“One of the things I am most proud of is my Hispanic heritage and I think the club recognizes the tremendous potential that we have among the Hispanic community in Arizona,” he said.
And the team and its supporters agree that separating soccer from politics is a key step in attracting new fans to keep the struggling franchise from perishing in the desert.