Photo by Flickr user mickbab
There is a dangling question that hangs over the resignation of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter and the earthquake-inducing arrests of top FIFA officials on racketeering charges and the scandal that has rocked international soccer to its foundations. Simply, why the United States?
Of all the countries wronged by FIFA under Blatter, why was it the United States, through its Justice Department, that compiled the evidence and coordinated with Swiss police to conduct a raid of a Five Star Zurich Hotel during the 2015 FIFA Congress?
For those throughout the world who maintain a sensible skepticism of the United States and its attempts to play "Globocop", there have been a series of conspiracy theories aimed to explain this muscular, Trans-Atlantic criminal sting.
All of these theories suggest elaborate Byzantine plots that end with imperial domination and the crushing of all in United States’ path. The U.S. goal, in these fantasies, is nothing less than bringing global soccer and Mr. Blatter to their knees.
These aren't just on the fever swamps of the internet. Blatter, Vladamir Putin, and several of those arrested have stated bluntly that the arrests were timed to maximize U.S. power, topple Blatter, and further cement a unipolar world. Putin called it an "obvious attempt to spread their jurisdiction to other states.I have no doubt that this is obviously an attempt to prevent Mr Blatter’s re-election to the post of FIFA President."
This story may very well end with the seventy-nine- year-old FIFA Boss finding a new home inside a U.S. prison. But no, the United States not the well-oiled machine Putin and others imagine, and sometimes the simplest explanations are in fact the best ones.
Why did the United States coordinate with Swiss police to arrest FIFA officials at the Zurich Congress? Quite simply, because the suspects were there. Arresting a cross section of officials in one locale and needing the assistance of just one foreign police force was a logical move.
But why did the United States, of all the countries wronged by FIFA, feel like it had the right to take this step? Again, the answer is simple. This wasn't the USA answering a higher calling. U.S. officials had an informant who was facing living out the rest of his life in prison. He is former FIFA top executive Chuck Blazer, who had not paid income taxes in years while somehow subsidizing an apartment in Trump tower for his cat (yes, you read that correctly).
Chuck Blazer was also willing to wear a wire. The United States Justice Department estimates that more $150 million in untaxed revenue passed through the USA without being taxed. They were going to get their piece.
FIFA's billions in global revenue and Blatter's power have made them resolutely independent of the USA and they delight in showing their contempt by denying the United States opportunities to host the World Cup.
That backfired, as the United States undertook the raid, in part, because this country was not awarded the 2022 World Cup. That is not to say the crack-down on FIFA was revenge; but if the United States were preparing to host, it simply would not have occurred.
But the most important reason is almost certainly this: the FIFA arrests mark a very high-profile, very popular, and very easy win for the U.S. Justice Department under the leadership of a new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. This arrest allows this country to finally appear, for the first time since the 2008 Economic meltdown, as if it is going after the super-rich who live free of any worries that their organized graft will ever catch up with them.
Arresting the super-powerful in a five star hotel shows that no one is above the law. Of course the Americans are doing this without having to lay a finger on Wall Street. For the U.S. Justice Department, these arrests might not come from the loftiest of virtuous perches. But they sure as hell improve their brand and increase their power. Those sorts of motivations are something that Sepp Blatter surely understands.
Dave Zirin is a columnist for The Progressive and the host of Edge of Sports radio on Sirius XM.