The travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries issued in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump has been blocked by several courts, but the measure clearly had an impact. Travelers from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, and Libya were prevented from boarding planes, detained upon arriving at US airports, and some were even deported before the ban was reversed.
In the wake of the travel ban several Men’s and Women’s National Team players issued comments about the executive order. New England Revolution striker Kei Kamara, a US citizen and Muslim who immigrated as a refugee from Liberia, posted to Instagram about the ban:
While the NBA noted that two of its players would be impacted by the ban, it hasn’t been clear how the ban would affect MLS. Today, however, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl noted that the climate of Islamophobia in the wake of the ban influenced a player to not sign with the league. Wahl wrote that “One MLS team executive says that his team was pursuing a Designated Player-level signing from outside the U.S. in late January, but the player decided against the move in part because he’s Muslim and he said he didn’t feel safe in the United States right now. The player was not from one of the seven majority-Muslim countries on the travel ban list–Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen–which has been overruled for now by a federal court.”
Transfers are complicated and many factors determine if a player will move to a new team, and Wahl wrote “The MLS executive said the travel ban wasn’t the only reason the deal didn’t happen, but the player did tell him it was part of the reason.”
While the travel ban has had an impact on attracting a player in this case, Trump’s immigration policies may have further reverberations on youth players in MLS development academies who are in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Although that policy is still in place, it and others that are favorable to immigration may be changed or eliminated during his administration. It is clear that in the coming years sports and politics will mix and soccer will be no exception.