Early Tuesday, Chilean publication Triunfo published an interview with former Silverbacks forward Reinaldo Navia. In the interview, Navia argued that Latino players face discrimination in American soccer leagues, and cited his experience with the Silverbacks as an example. Navia specifically made accusations against former interim head coach and current team advisor Eric Wynalda, saying that Wynalda and the Silverbacks “discriminated against him.”
The club issued a statement backing Wynalda early Wednesday.
“The club was disappointed to learn of Reinaldo Navia’s comments today, and after reading what he said, we know that the comments couldn’t be further from the truth. When Eric Wynalda was hired as our interim head coach, the club encouraged him to do whatever it took to turn around the product on the field. Part of that included making some changes in player and coaching personnel.
Eric decided to make several changes, bringing in eight new players and hiring four new assistant coaches. Six of the eight new players were of Latino heritage, and most of them came to Atlanta after playing under Eric at Cal FC – a team whose roster featured predominantly Latino players. Three of the four coaches Eric added to the first team staff were also Latino, hailing from Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Colombia. Eric has also held a healthy, long-standing professional relationship with Murciélagos FC, serving on their staff and helping them achieve a recent promotion to the Mexican second division.
The Silverbacks employ numerous Latino staff members including the director of sales and marketing, as the organization believes it’s important to have people on staff that can properly communicate and connect with the local Latino community.
The club is in the process of investigating the source of these comments, as they contain serious accusations against the character of both Eric Wynalda and the Atlanta Silverbacks organization. Should any information arise that warrants taking action, the club will look at any and all options to properly rectify the situation.”
Navia has since partially retracted from his initial statements, saying on Twitter that he wanted to “clarify that he never said that he suffered discrimination.” He also encouraged people to “read the entire interview and look past the headline that the reporter chose.” In an email to the club, Navia stated that the interview was supposed to be about his life in Latin America and some of the new projects he has been working on. He added that the reporter took his words way out of context.
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