Landon Donovan discussed his rooting-for-Mexico ad campaign that has him in hot water with some of his former U.S. teammates and fans.
U.S. men's national team great Landon Donovan made waves in the American soccer community over the weekend with a recent Wells Fargo ad campaign in which he proclaims he's supporting Mexico at the World Cup. The campaign shows him in a Mexico T-shirt and has him advocating for U.S. fans to cheer on America's "other team," Mexico.
This caused a firestorm on Twitter, as Donovan's tweet and subsequent TV ad to quite a bit of criticism for the USMNT's co-leader in all-time goals and leader in all-time assists. A few of Donovan's former teammates, including Carlos Bocanegra and Herculez Gomez, called him out on Twitter and it caused a stir for a day before Donovan went onto Twitter and posted a rebuttal on Sunday.
Donovan was a guest on Planet Futbol's World Cup Daily Podcast and he shed more light on his position and the comments that he received after the tweet. (Donovan's section of the podcast begins at the 22:22 mark of the episode)
"[It was] unexpected, but I guess I should've been a little more aware of what might be coming," Donovan said.
"A couple of months ago Wells Fargo reached out and said, 'We'd like to do another commercial with you,'" said Donovan, who starred in the "Hat Trick Rick" ad in 2015. "So we talked over a few weeks and they said, 'We want to figure out a way to get people behind this Mexican team. And obviously, with the U.S. not being there and the heavy Mexican influence in our country, we want to find a way to do that.' I said, 'Well I grew up with Mexicans. I literally learned how to play soccer from Mexicans and I owe a lot of my career to Mexico.' And I said 'Believe it or not, I'm actually rooting for them.' Which took a lot of people in the Wells Fargo sponsorship and marketing team by surprise.
"I said, 'I do. I want them to do well. I just lived there for four months and I know how much this means to them and I realize it's probably a little bit controversial but I do want them to do well.' So anyway we put together the campaign, and, in retrospect, I think I should've explained my personal story vis a vis the Mexican people and culture and how Mexican soccer has influenced my life and my career. I think that would have been a much smarter way to handle this as opposed to just coming out with an ad saying I'm supporting Mexico in the World Cup, because a lot of people understandably took that the wrong way."
Donovan continued, "I think had I done that, it would have been a lot easier to manage, and it's been an interesting weekend. I've learned a lot about my fans, and I've learned a lot about people who feel very strongly about this, and I've also realized it sort of transcends soccer and there's, unfortunately, a lot of hatred in this country and you just have to say there's a lot of racism. That's come out over the weekend in all the comments I've seen. So it's unfortunate but I do feel connected to the Mexican people in many ways, and I do want them to do well."
Mexico won its first match of the World Cup, beating defending champion Germany 1-0 in a landmark victory to open play in Group F. Donovan was surprised by how Germany came out and was impressed with what he saw from El Tri.
"It was really strange, because you could see Mexico winning the game, at least I could see Mexico winning the game in a certain scenario, but I didn't expect Germany to be as, I guess, unprepared is the word," Donovan said. "I don't know if they were tactically unprepared, but they didn't look like they were really all that up for it until the 70th or 75th minute. It was a little strange to see them come out that way. I guess when everyone is talking about you as the favorite, and you're the defending champs. And most of their players have come off long club seasons, so they're working their way back into competitive matches again. I guess that's why they came out a little bit that way?
"But I give Mexico a ton of credit. They deserved to win the game. It wasn't like they got battered all over the place and their goalie stood on his head. It was a deserved victory. I think the challenge now for Mexico is can you follow that up? Because Sweden and South Korea aren't world beaters, but they're hard teams to play against, so you really can't let your foot off the gas."