Two former Chivas USA youth coaches have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Major League Soccer team, claiming they were fired because they aren't Mexican or Latino.
“What they’ve done is wrong, and they’ve spelled it out very clearly,” said Daniel Calichman, former Chivas USA Academy coach.
Calichman said he should be on the field training up-and-coming soccer stars for the local Chivas USA Major League Soccer team. But instead, he's huddling with his attorney.
"For the first time in my life, I sat there and was like, my God, this is what discrimination looks like, smells like, feels like,” Calichman said. “And it didn't feel so good.”
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The suit was filed Tuesday by Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The suit also claims harassment and retaliation based on ethnicity and race and seeks unspecified damages.
The two men, who are both white, worked for more than a year for the team's academy, which provides soccer programs for youths.
“Mr. Calichman and Mr. Chronopoulos were terminated on the basis of their ethnicity and national origin,” said their lawyer, Gregory Helmer.
The lawsuit claims Chivas owner Jorge Vergara "intentionally humiliated all employees who were neither Mexican nor Latino," quoting Vergara as telling a group of employees, “If you don’t speak Spanish, you can go work for the (Los Angeles) Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language.”
Calichman said the team went a step further when it asked coaches to “collect ethnic and national origin data pertaining to all Chivas Academy players and their parents.”
"Who knows what they were doing with that information, but that's not typical of Academy behavior," Calichman said.
The lawsuit claims Chivas USA is trying to mirror the ''Mexican-only'' policy of its Guadalajara counterpart.
''While that may be acceptable in Mexico, in California and in our country you can't make decisions on employment based on ethnicity or race,'' Helmer said.
Calichman met with the team president Jose David in January just before his suspension.
"Mr. David said that the company was quote, going back to its Mexican roots and acknowledged very clearly that my clients did not fit into those plans," Helmer said.
By March, both coaches were fired.
NBC4 attempted to get comment from Chivas USA. A representative did call us back and said the team was not willing to discuss the case because of the pending litigation.
As for a resolution, the coaches have not placed a dollar amount on it, hoping instead to take it to trial and allow a jury to decide.
Helmer said eight non-Latino academy employees have been fired since Vergara took over the team. However, an online directory shows several players and employees who aren't Mexican or Latino.
Chivas USA is currently last in the Western Conference.