This sort of thing can happen in Corporate America. New ownership takes over an organization, gives the incumbent employees a few months to prove their worth, and then makes some personnel changes.
This isn't an entirely rare situation in the business world. When Proctor & Gamble purchased Gillette, surely they made some changes. The most successful consumer products company in the world certainly would have identified some inefficiencies with the existing regime when taking over management of Gillette.
The difference though is that no one roots for P&G. At least not with the specific heartfelt passion that we root for D.C. United. And while a corporate shakeup might be a perfectly natural thing for a new ownership group to do, it isn't a perfectly natural thing for us to experience as fans.
Our love for United runs deep, and it reaches far. As the most hardcore passionate members of the United fanbase, our love and support isn't just for Ben Olsen. It isn't just for the players on the field either. Our support touches every facet of the organization with which we've come in contact. That includes the executives that have shaken our hands at the tailgates. It also includes the communications staff members that we interact with on Twitter every day.
Several people lost their jobs on Friday. They were members of our family. They have names like Stephen Zack, Kyle Sheldon, and Mark McClure. They'll be replaced, but they won't soon be forgotten.
The reports are that the dismissals that happened last week weren't cost-cutting maneuvers. The dismissals were apparently driven by the desire of Jason Levien and Erick Thohir to improve the business operations of D.C. United. Reorganizations may occur, but that means that the newly vacant positions will still be filled in some way. And for all we know, the new folks who will be hired to run the Sales, Customer Service, and Communications departments will be highly qualified and highly successful in their new positions.
But it still sucks to see familiar faces going away. These were the guys responsible for Ben Olsen's Chili Bowl, for WeWinTrophies.com, for the Capital Soccer Show. These were members of our family.
Can we really blame Ownership for doing it though? Can we blame them for wanting to run a more profitable business? No, of course not.
But maybe we should blame them for not feeling the loyalty that we do towards all facets of the organization. Did Levien realize how closely connected the most hardcore United fans feel to Sheldon? Did he anticipate the negative reactions that have been spreading across Twitter since McClure departed?
I don't think he did. And if he did, or even if he didn't, he probably still owes us an explanation. Because remember that fear that we discussed when Kevin Payne took a job with Toronto FC? It's the fear that the United that we've grown to love over the past few years won't be the same United anymore. It's the fear that the team we support will look very different very soon. That fear is growing stronger.
Of course the team didn't let everyone go though. There are still over 50 full-time employees reporting to RFK Stadium this morning. Two of them are CFO Michael Williamson and Communications/Marketing VP Doug Hicks, who will be taking on expanded roles, at least in the short term. Hicks has been with United for 12 years and will hopefully serve us well in continuing the steer this club in the right direction.
The best news at this point though is that the product that we see directly on the field hasn't encountered any changes yet. The coaching staff, technical staff, and training staff all remain in place. But the fear is that this might not be true for long. Could Dave Kasper's job possibly be in jeopardy at some point in the near future? Could Olsen's?