There hasn’t been much Chicago Fire soccer played recently, as the team has just returned to league play following the international break and an off week.
They scraped a 1-0 win against DC United on Saturday, which is a decent result, though they played against the only other team that’s been just as bad as them.

The more significant stories over the last few weeks have been off the field, and I want to shed some light on one of those in this column – the Arlo White situation.

This story needs to be covered every day until the Chicago Fire finally part ways with the announcer and club ambassador.

For those that don’t know, Arlo White is the former voice of the Premier League on NBC, and his role for the Fire is that he calls a handful of summer games along with being one of the hosts of the club’s podcast called “The Intercontinental Football Show” podcast. On Monday, June 6th, it was announced that Arlo White had signed a contract to be the lead announcer for the new and extremely controversial LIV Golf Tour. LIV is a mechanism of “sports washing” for the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and a ploy to better the reputation of the Saudi Arabian royal family.

It’s hard to imagine a golf tournament covering up the human rights violations committed by the Saudi Arabian government, which include:

  • In March of this year, a mass execution of 81 people was conducted by the Saudi government, which eclipsed the 62 total reported executions committed by them in 2021, and at the time, took this year’s total to 92.
  • It is a country that routinely murders journalists, including in the high-profile case of Jamal Khashoggi a few years back.
  • Saudi Arabia continues to be light years behind when it comes to freedoms of expression, religion, women’s rights, gay rights, migrant rights, and a whole slew of other human rights.
  • The country does not have an established penal code, and laws are written broadly, allowing government prosecutors to convict anyone they want of whatever they want.
  • The ongoing airstrikes in Yemen are often referred to as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world at the moment.
  • Details on each of these violations and others can be found here.

Photo: Chicago Tribune

There are clearly more examples known to us and likely many others we have no idea about. So it’s not difficult to understand why a Chicago Fire employee also working for the people behind these atrocious acts is problematic. His ongoing employment is even more confusing given the club’s ongoing attempts to be more socially aware and create a community that is a safe space for all. Cutting ties with a man that takes a check from these people seems like a no-brainer for the Fire, but it has been two weeks since the announcement, and the club has remained basically radio silent on the issue. The only response from the club has been a comment by a spokesperson that the club was aware of Arlo’s choice prior to the announcement and that he will remain in the club’s plans. I wanted to wait a little bit before saying anything about this because I was trying to see if the Fire would do the right thing. But, as time goes on, it becomes harder to believe in any sort of “social good” initiative taken up by the Fire. Everything they have done up until this point gets diminished and is quickly starting to seem performative. We don’t know how far in advance the club knew about the deal, but the fact that they did does not help the optics of the situation. If they knew in advance, it gave them extra time to make the right decision and cut ties with Arlo, but as we know, that hasn’t happened yet.

Regardless of what is, or in our case, isn’t happening on the field, some things are bigger than the sport. There is an ongoing trend of rich people with sketchy records and closets full of skeletons dipping their billions into sports. The first high-profile case was Roman Abramovich’s acquisition of Chelsea in the early 2000s. We all know what has happened with that. Later on in the decade, Manchester City got taken over by Sheikh Mansour and became a richer club than had ever been imaginable up until that point. It was followed not too long later by the Qatari takeover of Paris Saint-Germain. Most recently, the takeover of the Newcastle by a group financed by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudia Arabian Public Investment Fund, which is funding the LIV Tour, is part of this consortium that has made Newcastle the richest club in the league.

It is a trend that is subtly ruining the beautiful game and is putting its future into uncertainty.

Ironically, Arlo White took time on an episode of the “Intercontinental Football Show” to shed light on this and to speak out against the Newcastle takeover and said that nobody should be taking money from these people. And here he is now, taking money from those same people.

I believe it is important for Chicago Fire to be on the right side of history with this. It is something that goes all the way to the top, and if Joe Mansueto wants to maintain his reputation and good standing with Chicago Fire supporters, it is imperative that he makes the decision to let Arlo White go. I had the chance to watch the England vs. Scotland game with Arlo during last summer’s European Championships.

We chatted throughout the 90 minutes about all things soccer, and it was an enjoyable conversation. He is knowledgeable in soccer, and his work over at NBC covering the Premier League has set standards for the industry. Neither of these is good enough reasons to keep him around, considering the overshadowing facts laid out here.

A handful of summer matches, a podcast, and a club ambassadorship are not roles for someone with such ethical violations.
Arlo White’s continued employment and the Chicago Fire organization’s commitment to values of equity and diversity are incompatible.

Featured Image: Chicago Tribune
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