As Sporting Kansas City players walked through security checkpoints at Kansas City International Airport on Thursday — the final measure before traveling to Montreal to play the Impact two days later — an airport employee stopped the team’s striker, Dom Dwyer.
“You shouldn’t have got a yellow card for that selfie,” she told him, as recalled by Dwyer, who laughed at the comment.
Dwyer is enjoying his breakout season in Major League Soccer. He’s tied for second in the league with 12 goals — which already matches the third most in club history for a single season.
But all anyone can talk about — CNN, ESPN, even the newspapers from the Englishman’s home country — is that selfie.
You have surely seen it by now. As part of his celebration after scoring a goal Sunday against Chicago, Dwyer swiped a phone from a cameraman, put his arm around teammate Soony Saad and snapped a picture with fans from the Sporting Park south stands draped behind him.
The resulting photo of Dwyer and Saad — posted on the team’s official Twitter account — has since appeared in media outlets all over the world.
“It’s funny,” Dwyer said. “I’ve gotten a lot of tweets, and people have come up to me everywhere and mentioned it. If the fans like it, then it’s pretty cool.”
It has provided a talking point for sports debate shows and newspaper columns. But was the celebration too excessive?
Referee Alan Kelly certainly didn’t see the humor in it. He issued Dwyer a yellow card for what the MLS disciplinary committee later deemed a “lack of respect for the game.” Even some of Dwyer’s teammates weren’t too thrilled with the display.
But people are talking. And maybe that’s a good thing.
According to TV Eyes, a national TV and radio monitoring service, news of the Dwyer selfie was broadcast to more than 10 million people across the country. The time it was given on national shows — “Good Morning America” and ESPN’s “Around The Horn,” for example — equated to more than $1 million in advertising space. That figure doesn’t include local broadcast stations or newspaper publications.
The monetary value leads to a question the league must address: Should it label such displays of personality as disrespectful, or it should embrace them as revenue generators?
Ironically, the league promoted a video of the selfie celebration on the MLS home page. Maybe it sees the value after all.
“Major League Soccer encourages expressions of goal celebrations that are not deemed excessive (and do not) cause delays in the match,” said Dan Courtemanche, the MLS executive vice president of communications. “We believe a player should be able to showcase his personality during a match.”
But many such showcases result in yellow cards, as Dwyer’s did Sunday. Only 15 seconds elapsed from the moment Dwyer grabbed the phone to the time he returned to the field.
While Dwyer says the yellow card didn’t affect his style of play in the second half Sunday, there’s no way to know for sure. He acknowledged that if he received another yellow card — leading to an automatic ejection from the match — he “would have been in big trouble” for the first one.
“If the league is showing it everywhere (and) if they think those are good things, I don’t think they should be given yellow cards for them,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “But since right now it’s a yellow card, I’ve spoken to him about it. There are certain things you can’t do, because it will affect the team. And the team is always first.”
Abnormal goal celebrations haven’t always been deemed a card-worthy offense. In a staged celebration last season, Columbus Crew striker Dominic Oduro took a bite of pizza before handing the leftovers to a fan. And a day before Dwyer’s selfie, Chivas USA striker Erick Torres hurdled the boards to greet the fans — a celebration that nearly matched Dwyer’s in terms of time elapsed. Neither player was carded.
So perhaps the real solution is consistency. While Dwyer’s highlight drew attention to a league determined to continue its growth pattern, some found it disrespectful to the game. Dwyer said he read one English paper that called it “a new low” for soccer. Another called for a six-month suspension.
Dwyer insists he wasn’t taunting Chicago but rather finding a new way to enjoy the moment. Should that matter?
“It is what it is. I wasn’t showing anybody up or anything like that,” Dwyer said. “Sometimes you just have to have fun and enjoy yourself. I thought we were supposed to have fun playing the game we love.”