By John Boyle
Sounders left back Marc Burch wishes he could be on the field with his teammates for Saturday’s season opener, but he also says MLS commissioner Don Garber made the right call suspending him.
During Seattle’s playoff win over Salt Lake last fall, Burch used a gay slur while shouting at an opponent, and MLS, which admirably takes a strong stance against any form of intolerance, came down hard on Burch, suspending him for three games. Burch sat out Seattle two playoff games against Los Angeles, but since the Sounders were eliminated in that series, his suspension carries over to Saturday’s game against Montreal.
“I knew when the suspension was coming down that it needed to be harsh, because it’s a harsh thing that I did,” Burch said Tuesday. “I think Don Garber made the right decision. I wish it would have been the end of the season and I could have started this season new and fresh and try to get it off of people’s minds, but three games is three games, and I’m ready to face it and start my season after it.”
Burch has said and done all the right things since that game in Salt Lake, but he knows that incident will stay with him, and all he can do now is show through his actions going forward that what happened was a one-time, heat-of-the-moment case of using bad judgment, not an indication of who he is or what he believes.
“It will always be in the back of my mind,” he said. “You make a mistake and you want to fix it as much as you can, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. The only thing I can do—I can’t make up for what I did, but all I can do is just prove from here on out that nothing like that will ever happen again. That’s not who I am, that’s not what I do, that’s not part of my game, and it’s not part of this team’s game. I made a mistake, and since then I think I’ve been doing the right things, and that’s the only thing I can do from here on out.”
Burch recently got some attention when he was part of a video produced by the team that had several players expressing their support for Robbie Rogers, who at 25 came out publicly for the first time and announced he was stepping away from the game. Burch also Tweeted his support for Rogers, a former college teammate, and he insists his actions were simply those of a person trying to support a friend and former teammate, not of a player trying to rehabilitate a tarnished image.
“I hope people didn’t think that was because of what happened last year,” he said. “I went to school with Robbie and I love Robbie to death. We spent a lot of time together when I was at Maryland. That was the big thing, I was supporting my friend and a teammate, not that I was coming out and accepting a gay or lesbian person. It was just the fact that he was my friend and I support him in whatever he does. I’m proud that he has been able to get this off of his chest. Hopefully he can come back and play soccer now. That’s what we all want him to do.”
Asked if Major League soccer would be accepting to openly gay player, Burch said he believed it is.
“I think so,” he said. “… I think we’ll be the first league to definitely accept it, and I think it will come and go a lot easier than people think. I would hope that Robbie comes back, but if his passion’s in what he’s doing now, I completely support him. It’s going to happen and I think this is a perfect league for it.”