Today, Jacob Ryan at WFPL.com published a report that Louisville City FC’s principal owner, Wayne Estopinal, has indicated that the club has been contacted by another city concerning the prospect of moving LCFC out of Louisville. Considered without context, these statements would be alarming. When one realizes, however, that Estopinal is a) trying to fast-forward to a new stadium that the club would control, and b) probably trying to negotiate a better deal with the Louisville Bats in the meantime, things start to make sense.
Reddit figured it out pretty quickly: it’s posturing. This is America, where we have a franchise system in pro sports rather than a club system. Sure, “Club” is in LCFC’s name, but my guess is to be a member you have to pay about $25,000 and promise to pay more if asked. In America, pro sports franchises threaten to leave their homes all the time as a way to get governments to do what they want. It’s shameful, and a great method of pissing away goodwill with fans and business that support the team. Worse, sometimes it works.
Estopinal knows that in just one season Louisville City has gathered a substantial and social media-savvy fan base that he is able to use to his advantage (Exhibit A: the #releasetheplaquen uproar from last week). In the aftermath of all that, it turns out that the Bats didn’t actually block City from installing the plaque, it just has to do with where the thing would go. Didn’t those of us who fired off a gazillion tweets and Facebook comments feel sheepish when the whole story came out? I know I did.
Yes, the club needs a new stadium, and isn’t able to monetize its own gameday experience the way it would like to. But to go to the “well we’ll just leave then” tactic this early in the game leaves a sour taste in our mouths, given the recency of the whole plaque thing.
The Coopers were here before Louisville City ever existed, and in the exceedingly unlikely event that the club did decide to ditch town for “greener pastures,” we’d still be here. The Coopers support Louisville and support soccer. Yes, we’re fervently and almost maniacally in love with Louisville City FC, but for the club to try to use that support to its advantage in contract negotiations is in exceedingly poor taste.
Fool us once, shame on you, City. We won’t be fooled twice.