The words came rushing into my mind as I read the story of the Cooper City soccer league coach ejected from the game for speaking Spanish: discrimination, common courtesy, bias, an English-Only referendum and misunderstanding.
One or all of these words may be the root cause of why the story of a volunteer soccer coach at the Optimist Club of Cooper City, who was tossed from the game for speaking Spanish to his players, has created such a firestorm.
While there are no clear and easy rules on what proper etiquette is and what is not, the law prohibits barring people, players or coaches from speaking another language.
Much depends on the intentions of referee Justin Arner Rose, who asked coach Rubén Albarracín to stop speaking Spanish to his players, and when he didn't, he tossed him from the game. The same goes for Rose's mother, the league's chief arbitrator and the person who told the referee not to allow the players to speak Spanish.
Optimist Club board member Geri Kelly said "during a meeting we asked coaches to be careful for the benefit of the majority, speak in a language that everyone understands. We have no rule (against speaking Spanish). How could this be a rule?"
Her logic is impeccable, although the club is treading on a very fine line between what is legal and what is not. Their intent is for everyone to understand what is going on. In that case these are games for the enjoyment of all, and not to keep track of winners and losers this is acceptable.
There is strategy behind every sport and each coach, each team, wants to put plays in without the other team understanding what they are doing. So why the ban on Spanish if that was what coach Albarracín was doing?
The Optimist League game where this occurred was for boys between 14 and 18. Isn't that the age of most high school junior varsity and varsity players? In high-school sports there are verbal and non-verbal signals sent so that players on the other team do not understand what they want to do.
So what is wrong with a Spanish-speaking coach in an Optimist League speaking to his Spanish speaking players in Spanish? Yes, it gives them an advantage over the other team, but then, isn't that the purpose of playing games?
Of course there is a question of common courtesy. One should not publicly speak Spanish in public in front of those who don't understand the language. I automatically change from Spanish to English if I am in an elevator and someone who doesn't understand Spanish walks in.
I don't hear of anyone saying they are uncomfortable when French-speaking Canadian tourists come down to South Florida and speak French in public. That is their right, even if we don't understand a word they say. We like the money they bring.
For the sake of sportsmanship, the Optimist Club may ask coaches not to speak a foreign language voluntarily. But they may not impose written or unwritten rules that bar coaches or players from speaking other languages.
I thought that those battles, fought many years ago in Miami-Dade County would not have to be repeated in Broward Country. Broward has large and growing communities from several Latin American countries, as well as from other countries in the Caribbean, including Haiti.
Voting ballots in our counties are printed in three languages to make sure nobody's rights are violated. The same rule should apply to the Optimist Club of Cooper City.
They may ask players and coaches to speak a common language as a courtesy or in the name of good sportsmanship. They may not expel a coach or player from a game for doing so. That is discriminatory.
Guillermo I. Martínez on Twitter at @g_martinez123, or email him at Guimar123@gmail.com