If a soccer team only hires Mexicans, is it racist?
That is the question that will be tackled on Tuesday night on the HBO show Real Sports, which takes a look at the recent history of Chivas USA.
The LA-based Major League Soccer team was always designed to cater to the city's considerable Mexican community. Its owner, Jorge Vergara, also owns the famous Mexican league team Chivas de Guadalajara -- and both clubs wear the same uniform.
Unlike Chivas Guadalajara, which has had no foreign players in its century-long history, Chivas USA actually hired players of all sorts of backgrounds for several years. But after three losing seasons and a dismal showing in 2012, Chivas USA has, in the words of its owner, "gone back to its roots" -- packing its roster with players of Mexican descent or citizenship for the 2013 season, and firing most of its non-Mexican players and coaching staff.
Two Caucasian former coaches for the team recently filed a discrimination suit, claiming that Chivas USA has become a racist squad. Real Sports reporter Soledad O'Brien also seems to think that there's foul play.
"I think it's pretty shocking to think that in 2013, there is a major league sport in America where the players and the coaches are alleging discrimination. It's stunning," O'Brien says in the trailer for Tuesday's report.
On the other hand, the Mexicanization of Chivas USA could be part of a smart marketing strategy, designed to reinforce a team identity that is distinct from that of other MLS squads -- and that sets Chivas apart from its local rival, the LA Galaxy.
Considering the size of the Mexican community in the U.S. and its contributions to American soccer, some folks may even argue that it is justified for Mexican-Americans to have "their own" team in the MLS.
There is also somewhat of a precedent for nationalistic hiring practices in the world of soccer, with several clubs in Europe, Latin America and Asia that have historically decided to field players from just one nationality, one religion, or one part of a country.
Such teams are definitely the exception to the rule. And they go against the general logic of most clubs (and companies) nowadays, which is to get the best talent available for your money, whatever country that talent may come from.
Here is a list of soccer teams that only take players of one nationality. Let us know in the comments if you think it's appropriate for Chivas USA to do the same.