“Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.” – Malcom X
House-arrest provides ample time for our thoughts to run amuck; we can all thank COVID-19 for that. The situation surrounding Aleksander Katai’s LA Galaxy departure went way over its allotment of brain waves this past month. He would haphazardly interrupt my train of thought, like some kind of oblivious house guest who is too faded to realize the party ended hours ago and just walked in while I’m sitting on the toilet.
The LA Galaxy announced their “mutual agreement to part ways” about a month ago. Reading between the lines of that statement, I was convinced he had been fired, but after digging into this story further, I realized their separation was one of certain mutual consent.
A quick primer:
Aleksander Katai joined the LA Galaxy prior the start of the MLS season. In the heat of the the Black Lives Matter protests, Tea Katai (Aleksander’s wife) managed to get her husband “released” from the LA Galaxy for posting some idiotic stuff to her Instagram story. For the purpose of context, Tea Katai’s Instagram is mostly filled with family photos, terribly serious posing, trivial selfie-clips at fancy restaurants, bikini snaps, and a lot of very tight pants. I will summarize her most notorious posts below:
- Entry one showed police cars crawling through crowds of protesters to which she added the caption “kill the shits!”
- Entry two showed a black woman holding a Nike sneaker box, presumably acquired through looting, to which she added the caption “Black Nikes Matter.”
- Entry three was a picture of a Washington DC building on fire captioned “Disgusting cattle set fire to churches!”
And some extra bits of information to keep in mind:
- Aleksander released an apology, expressing “I need to do better.” At most, this excuses Katai himself. At the very least, he is giving an indictment of his wife.
- Katai’s former Chicago fire teammate, CJ Sapong, had some damning things to say about the Serbian. Sapong, a black man, claims that Katai wouldn’t make eye-contact with him on and off the pitch, even ignoring him in scoring situations where Sapong was open and Katai had the opportunity to provide service. Sapong’s trainers/coaches agreed there was something odd about Katai’s behavior and play.
- Katai is already back to playing for Red Star Belgrade, in his home country of Serbia.
After letting this information soak in, it shouldn’t strain your imagination to pretend we’re talking about two full-blown racists. While there is always a one-in-a-million chance this is all a big misunderstanding, it probably isn’t.
What bothers me the most, so much so that I’ve spent two months revisiting this post, is how the LA Galaxy handled this situation; they paid out the rest of Katai’s contract upon releasing him.
Why in the actual fuck would they do that?
My intention is not to crucify the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer, or whoever actually made the final decision on the matter of Katai’s departure. We all have the benefit of hindsight, and I own zero Galaxy/MLS stock. However, I do think a more audacious approach to Katai’s situation would better serve the goal of eliminating racism.
In this spirit, why not keep him on the team and force the Katai family to take steps towards learning about the exact people they seem to be so uncomfortable with. If the Galaxy are going to pay him anyway, yes, I’m suggesting they hold him hostage as opposed to sending him away from Los Angeles, flush with cash and an unchanged world-view, to his next employment opportunity.
While I’ve spent a very limited amount of time in Los Angeles, I have no doubt there are plenty of organizations the Katai family could have personally involved themselves in to broaden their perspective of races unlike their own. Getting out into the community and interacting with different races could be a mandate placed on Katai by his team/league. He should also learn how to pass to non-white teammates while he’s at it.
If he failed to comply or make an earnest effort, Aleksander could enjoy training by himself and watching Galaxy games from the comfort of his Los Angeles home. Let his career wither away for the duration of his contract. Most people would find this to be a more satisfying resolution over the Katai family further profiting from their misbehavior.
I’m sure I don’t have enough intimate knowledge around the topic of player contracts and how a player’s spouse can/can’t affect the status of said contract, but I still feel so uneasy as to how Katai’s situation was resolved. In the case of Austin FC, I hope our ownership approaches situations of racism with a much bigger set of balls. If it is within their legal right to do so, hang onto that player until they repent or rot — nothing in between.
Watch any post-game Red Star Belgrade interview of Katai’s; he seems to be in the highest of spirits. I hope he really learned from this and didn’t just get away with something.