Dismissal of Mexico Coach Sparks Debate Over Freedom of Speech

Piojo Herrera - México

One of the many memes created by Internet users related to the confrontation between “The Louse” Herrera and reporter Christian Martinoli, which resulted in the dismissal of the Mexico manager.

This post by Mariana Muñoz was originally  published on the blog Periodismo en las Américas and has been reproduced here with authorization.

The recent dismissal of the coach of Mexico's national football team, Miguel Herrera, or “El Piojo” (The Louse), over an alleged assault against a reporter, has sparked a debate throughout the country about the freedom of speech.

Christian Martinoli, a reporter and chronicler of TV Azteca, says Herrera punched him in the neck when they saw each other at an airport in Philadelphia in the United States on July 27, according to the newspaper AS Mexico.

Martinoli also says Herrera's daughter pushed him and yelled at him to leave, as captured in images shared by Univision.

(Video in Spanish)

Herrera tried to fight the reporter and threatened him, saying, “This is what will happen every time I see you!” Martinoli claims.

According to CNN Mexico, the dispute between was triggered by comments Martinoli made after the Mexican team lost a match against Ecuador on June 19. (“What Mexico needs is a manager not a cheerleader—a manager and not a marketer,” Martinoli said on his program TV Azteca.)

The next day at a press conference, Herrera referred to Martinoli's comment, saying, “I will find him and fight him,” although he didn't mention the reporter by name.

Tension between the two then continued on Twitter. On June 21, Martinoli responded to Herrera's comments on his personal account, calling him a “barrabrava” (hooligan). Herrera then hit back, saying he wanted to meet Martinoli somewhere “to work out their differences”:

That's not what I'm like but I do hope to meet you somewhere.  To work out our differences

Herrera denies the airport incident and insists that he wouldn't be “so stupid” as to attack a reporter in a US airport.

Herrera's dismissal became official on July 28, when Decio de María, president of the Mexican Football Federation, announced at a press conference that Herrera's lack of respect for the freedom of speech was one of the reasons for his departure:

La violencia no cabe en la sociedad, en la familia y mucho menos en ningún deporte. Nadie que quiera imponerse con agresiones y no con ideas y conceptos sobre el principio de la libertad de expresión puede ser miembro de la Federación Mexicana de Fútbol”.

Violence has no place in society, family, and especially sports. Anyone wanting to start a fight, or without any idea or concept of the principle of freedom of speech cannot be a member of the Mexican Football federation.

Decio de María acknowledged Herrera's success both on and off the pitch, but announced that “the score cannot come before our statutes, rules, and respect for the freedom of speech.”

That same day, Herrera released a statement offering his apologies to fans, players, directors, and the media. The statement did not address Martinoli.

Some people are beginning to question the way Martinoli has criticized coach Herrera.

Pablo Carrillo, sports reporter for Grupo Imagen Multimedia, wrote on Twitter:

I wonder also if the ways of storytelling should be more respectful, sarcastically, with relish, but without overdoing it? I have questions about it.

Support for the reporter has also been present on social media recently, with people even creating the hashtag #YoSoyMartinoli (IamMartinoli) to express solidarity for the newscaster. Various reporters such as Paola Rojas of Foro TV, ESPN's David Failteson and León Krauze, and others, have expressed their support for Martinoli on Twitter.

Unacceptable behavior from @MiguelHerreraDT My solidarity is with @martinolimx  

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