Sportsnet analyst Craig Forrest calls Sydney Leroux “classless”

There were strong emotions on display during Sunday's Canada-U.S. women's soccer friendly, and those emotions boiled over when Canadian-born striker Sydney Leroux scored the match's final goal in stoppage time to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead. Leroux followed that goal with a celebration that involved shushing the crowd and pointing to the U.S. crest on her jersey, and that caused plenty of Canadian fans and media members to react strongly. One of the most notable reactions came from former Canadian men's national team goalie Craig Forrest, who was serving as Sportsnet's colour analyst for the match. Here's how he reacted to Leroux's goal and celebration:

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http://youtube.com/watch?v=6yFf77676Ec?feature=player_embedded

Here's a transcription of Forrest's comments after the goal and Leroux's celebration. "Oh, she's really full of class, isn't she? You can have her! YOU CAN HAVE HER!" Play-by-play man Gerry Dobson then adds "That's called rubbing it in," and Forrest breaks back in with "Are you kidding me! Every step of the way! That's way too American for me. And she got a yellow card. That's more like it. You know what she is, the word class…classless."  

What's interesting is that Forrest's comments proved to be a key factor in the subsequent firestorm that erupted on Twitter and elsewhere. As ProSoccerTalk's Richard Farley writes, those comments encouraged a lot of the angry Canadian responses and also outraged a lot of Americans (once word of them spread across the border: ESPN had their own feed of the game and Leroux's goal, which didn't involve any such comments):

On the surface, Sportsnet’s remarks lazily play into an insensitive trope – the stereotype of the brash American – but said in the context of a 3-0 loss, as boos rained down on Leroux from a near-capacity BMO crowd, the comment carried none of the levity usually associated with the innocent jibes that often target Americans. It was bitter. It was ugly. It was reactionary and slightly venomous. The missive was a xenophobic response to a source of legitimate frustration, one with which U.S. fans could otherwise empathize. …

If xenophobic commentary like Sportsnet’s becomes common, would if be fair of me to label it as “too Canadian”? Regardless of the source? Or if Sportsnet’s broadcasters don’t like this response, can they lump similar critiques in with their “too American” missive? Or perhaps we shouldn’t go there at all. Perhaps we should just learn not to begrudge athletes their responses, just as we should learn to respect the decisions of Leroux, Rossi, Sesselman, Owen Hargreaves, Neven Subotic, and Jonathan de Guzman.
 
Sydney Leroux’s goal at BMO did little to change the dynamic between her and her country of birth. Nor did her celebration. The only thing that changed was the language surrounding the conflict. And unfortunately, it’s changed for the worse.

Meanwhile, the Leroux debate heated up even further Monday with her sending out a tweet accusing Canadian fans of racist chants, something that can lead to severe FIFA sanctions or bans. U.S. Soccer later said she wasn't referring to Sunday's game, but there's still likely going to be a long and messy investigation into that. Even before that, though, it's worth critically examining Forrest's comments. Are they what you'd expect from a former national team athlete turned broadcaster, or did he cross a line? Should Sportsnet ask for a higher standard of professionalism from Forrest, or do Canadian fans want an unabashedly home team perspective and thoughts on American players' class or lack thereof? There should be plenty of debates around this one, and the Leroux situation's just getting started. Just wait until she and the rest of the American team head to Canada in 2015 for the Women's World Cup…

Andrew Bucholtz

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing. He also covers the CFL and other sports for Yahoo! Canada.

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