Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies has exposed entitlement and covert racism in Canadian sports media

Media complaints about a star athlete’s “celebrity” status, expensive jewellery and failure to hold press conferences fast enough have a familiar, unfortunate ring to them.

Good lord, I can still hear dogs whistling all the way from Qatar.

Imagine seeing your country score its first-ever goal at a men’s World Cup, and your first thought isn’t to congratulate the player who scored it, but to attack them over something entirely trivial? Unfortunately, this is an impulse some have been acting on.

Since Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first men’s FIFA World Cup goal in its history, there have been complaints among prominent Canadian media members currently in Qatar covering the tournament about Davies’ perceived unwillingness to do mixed-zone press conferences. He would eventually have one after Canada’s campaign-ending loss to Croatia, but it took 10 days for that to happen.

Bruce Arthur and Kristian Jack used Twitter to express their disappointment in Davies not speaking to the media when other major stars had already done so at least once (Lionel Messi, for example, had done it twice). Meanwhile, Davies had done interviews with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing and rights-holding broadcasters like TSN and beIN Sports during the tournament, but had yet to do so in any scrum-like environments.

Most recently (and most maddeningly), the CBC ran a piece with the headline “Is Alphonso Davies’s celebrity a potential problem for Canada’s men’s World Cup team?”.

Oh fucking boy.

First off, holy ratio, Batman! Secondly, why would Davies’ “celebrity” be a problem of any kind for this team? Do you actually spend significant time in the Canadian men’s dressing room, and could therefore confirm that Davies’ high profile is a nuisance to his teammates?

Thirdly, author Chris Jones — who says he not only writes about the beautiful game but plays, coaches and referees it — bemoans Davies’ diamond earrings, ones he assumes “probably cost more than James Pantemis’s annual salary at CF Montreal.” Not only is the cost of his jewellery completely irrelevant to success on the pitch, it’s also a racist dogwhistle. No ifs ands or buts.

Even if the earring reference was not purposely race-baiting, it’s incredibly tough to imagine any journalist writing that line if Davies were white. Has there ever been this much of a shitstorm over the lavish displays of opulence you see from Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Antoine Griezmann — particularly something as inconsequential as the cost of their earrings? Why is Davies being treated differently? Why does it even matter at all?

There’s also the suggestion that, with Davies having benefitted from Canada Soccer (a federally funded program, just like the CBC), and particularly amid such heightened public interest in Canada, it’s therefore his responsibility to talk to members of the press. Jones then adds that “when you’re wearing a Canada Soccer shirt, you’re no longer a private enterprise. You’re part of a public trust.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

It doesn’t matter if you’re technically “not a private enterprise” when you play for your country. Media availability is the player’s decision, and Davies is not obligated to bend to a journalist’s whims simply so he can “represent his teammates off the field.”

Davies has also arguably done more for Canada Soccer at this point in his career than they’ve done for him. Also, Canada Soccer’s track record of organizational shortcomings deserves a piece all its own, not to mention their ongoing dispute with players over financial compensation.

Not only has Davies become the face of men’s soccer in this country, he’s come one hell of a long way to get there. From being born in a Ghanaian refugee camp, to immigrating to Canada at the age of four and settling in Edmonton, to excelling for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS, all the way to securing a move to German giants Bayern Munich — where he’s won a UEFA Champions League and emerged as one of the world’s best left-backs — he’s set a whole new standard for young Canadian male footballers to aspire to.

Now, he’s scored our men’s program’s first ever goal at a World Cup, despite having a penalty saved in the first game against Belgium. He was also literally the player Canada Soccer brought with them for their bid for the 2026 World Cup, to be hosted jointly with the U.S. and Mexico. How could you feel anything other than pride and elation for him after all of this?

Yet, instead of celebrating his goal and congratulating him, some would rather vilify him and paint him as some kind of problem, or a hindrance to Canadian men’s soccer. Is this really the tone we want any of our media outlets — and especially our taxpayer-funded national public broadcaster — to set with an athlete who is literally the best male soccer player this country has ever seen?

From top to bottom, the piece reads like a salty, vindictive hit job on Davies, reeking of sour grapes and entitlement. Fault is found also in his late arrival to Qatar, his decision to be treated by Bayern’s medical staff rather than those of the national team and signing his own jersey deal with Canada Soccer when his teammates don’t have ones of their own, to name a few examples. Worst of all, Jones viciously doubled down on his remarks in the piece despite immense backlash, before directing vitriol toward Canada’s fanbase and to those objecting to his article.

This also brings to mind how the British press treated Raheem Sterling in the lead-up to England’s run at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as the fiasco surrounding Formula 1 and Lewis Hamilton being banned from wearing jewellery during races. There’s a clear pattern here.

Habs fans can also compare this to how P.K. Subban seemingly got far more flak for his personality than Drew Doughty, Brad Marchand and Matthew Tkachuk — all similar to Subban in terms of off-ice persona and feisty playing style — ever have. You can probably guess as to why that might be.

The remark about Davies’ earrings is the kind of covertly racist comment you’d expect Don Cherry — Canada’s racist grandpa — to have made on Coach’s Corner back in the day. It’s also the kind of argument you’d expect from someone like Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, who infamously dogwhistled Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri during a press conference in September 2020.

Do we really want to see our coverage of Canadian footballers be compared to the relentless toxicity of British rags like the Sun or the Daily Mail? And especially when it’s a much older white man publicly venting his indignation over a 22-year-old Black athlete not wanting to talk to him? 

It obviously sucks as a journalist to suddenly find yourself screwed out of a story — of course it does. But Alphonso Davies’ job isn’t to be at your beck and call and be obligated to speak to you whenever called upon. It’s entirely their prerogative if they want to do mixed-zone press conferences or not. Athletes also don’t always have much time for media availabilities, especially during a tournament like the World Cup.

I find it mind-boggling that anyone would personally attack Davies — the living embodiment of the Canadian dream — for making history for this country’s men’s soccer program that will be talked about for years to come even despite losing that match 4–1 to Croatia, and despite some disgusting sore winner energy afterward from Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic and striker Andrej Kramaric toward Canadian manager John Herdman. (There was also TRULY grotesque behaviour on display from Croatian fans toward Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan, but that whole situation merits its own thinkpiece).

Sure, he might not want to have a barrage of microphones and flashing cameras in his face while he fields difficult questions from domestic and international journalists, but so what? Can you blame him? 

Sid Seixeiro — a journalist I’ve admittedly been critical of over the years — absolutely nailed his rebuttal to Jones’s piece on Breakfast Television on Wednesday morning, particularly the fact that Canadian media isn’t “smart enough to criticize a kid like this,” because most of them only watch the sport “every two or four years.”

He’s absolutely right. How many of these reporters aside from Kristian Jack have intimately covered and written about the Canadian men’s national soccer team since before they qualified for the World Cup, or since before Davies burst onto the scene as a precocious teenager?

For that matter, how many of them have devoted this much energy to covering the women’s national team, who are the defending Olympic gold medallists and whose captain has scored the most international goals for either the men’s or women’s game in soccer history? It feels like their achievements have become somewhat lost in the shuffle recently, and Janine Beckie shooting lasers from her eyes at James Duthie — a hockey broadcaster — when he called Davies’ goal against Croatia “the greatest moment in Canadian soccer history” is a prime example.

Seixeiro also gets to the heart of another important factor: that we are DAMN lucky to have Alphonso Davies as one of our own, and his commitment and dedication to his country should never be questioned. Davies played in Qatar despite not being 100%, and after having travelled ridiculous distances from Munich to play for Canada in places like Saint Kitts and the Cayman Islands. So why do some of us want to manufacture a controversy out of a player who’s never once turned down a call to play for his country?

To brand him as an ungrateful, diamond earring-wearing prima donna whose celebrity could distract his teammates isn’t just reductive and mean-spirited, it’s highly speculative at best and downright racist at worst. Even without the possible racist undertones, complaining about Davies’ salary and earrings is akin to crying over spilled milk when compared to getting results on the pitch and ensuring Canadian soccer continues progressing. The overall tone of petulance and disappointment from certain Canadian media members about this feels like them simply projecting their frustration over not getting to talk to him.

We’re at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, our players are gaining invaluable experience on the world’s biggest sporting stage to carry with them to 2026, and your takeaway is that Davies is somehow a self-serving distraction? Why do we have to concoct entire fiascos in the form of clickbaity, engagement-driven narratives? Why can’t we just give our players their flowers and congratulate them for getting to the men’s World Cup in the first place after such a lengthy absence? 

Organizational incompetence, public indifference, substandard player development and a lack of a domestic professional league are among the bigger factors that had held us back from qualifying for men’s World Cups, not “kid gloves and low expectations.” A heartbreaking opening game loss to Belgium despite clearly outplaying them; John Herdman’s coaching decisions against Croatia (notably leaving Atiba Hutchinson on the pitch way too long); his infamous remarks before the game;  our poor defensive coverage; and the significant gap in quality between us and Croatia is why we’re mathematically eliminated from the World Cup, not Davies’ expensive earrings or refusal to do post-game pressers.

Is this really the kind of sports journalism our tax money should be funding? And does the CBC really think this type of argument wouldn’t be more harmful to our chances of success in 2026 than any piece of expensive jewelry Alphonso Davies could buy? And even after being accused of racism, those writing these pieces add kerosene to the fire by yelling “I SAID WHAT I SAID!” instead of apologizing?

During a tournament meant to unite people of all backgrounds, it’s disappointing to see such an inherently divisive narrative on a mainstream media platform. This is a team full of players whose roots come from literally all corners of the globe, and is, to some degree, a microcosm of Canada’s cultural diversity. Many of them could’ve played for the national teams of their other ancestral nations. What are future dual-national Canadian footballers thinking when they see things like this?

Alphonso Davies doesn’t owe you his time and energy if he doesn’t want to give it to you. Simple as. He especially doesn’t deserve cheap shots — especially not ones that can be interpreted as racist — of any kind for it. Our goal for 2026 is to maximize the growth trajectory of Canada’s men’s soccer program and work toward reaching (or even exceed) the benchmark set by our women’s team so that we can make serious noise in front of our fans during that tournament. Creating micro-controversies like Davies’ perceived “celebrity” and reluctance to speak to the media doesn’t help anyone.

Going to the World Cup as a reporter in the first place is an enormous privilege, one I’d personally be over the moon to have one day. Canadian sports journalists might understandably be annoyed and disappointed about their story not going according to plan, but that’s ultimately not Davies’ problem. He’s thus far given everything he can possibly give for this country and more, between helping get us to the World Cup, and then scoring our first goal whilst there. We can all do much, much better as a country when talking about Davies and the men’s national team, up to 2026 and beyond.

But hey, keep yelling. Alphonso Davies doesn’t care. He cares about 2026. ■

Alphonso Davies has exposed entitlement and covert racism in Canadian sports media

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