Sounders FC severed ties with Alan Hinton over a Monday tweet.
Hinton most recently served as a Sounders brand ambassador, but he was also coach of the North American Soccer League iteration of the club and television broadcaster. Hinton said he was given a $1,000 monthly compensation to represent the club.
A Sounders spokesperson said Hinton was in direct violation of the club’s policies for contracted employees.
On Monday, Hinton posted: “Let me make clear I am not a racist? I began in pro soccer when no black players on my team? Years later blacks started to be good so my attitude was ‘Love you if you help us win our bonuses’? Signed as a coach several good black players? Have friends who are black? Is that OK?”
Hinton told The Seattle Times in 2019 that his use of question marks was initially an error when he established his Twitter account in 2011. He kept it going as a running joke with most of his 10,400 followers.
“Sounders FC has ended its independent-contractor relationship with Alan Hinton,” the club said in a statement. “Hinton’s tweets on June 1 are not congruous with our club values, and as such, he will no longer be representing the organization in an ambassadorial capacity.”
Hinton said Wednesday that Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer called Tuesday afternoon to notify Hinton of the dismissal.
“I put a tweet out thinking it was almost a lovable story about what happened 50 years ago,” Hinton said via phone Wednesday. He was a standout player for Derby County (1967-75) in his native England, helping the club win two titles and playing alongside Tony Parry, one of the league’s first Black players.
“Adrian Hanauer twisted it to suit his goal to cut his budget,” Hinton continued. “He didn’t give me a chance to explain what happened. … Since race and rioting is on the television — I watch it six hours a day — and it’s very, very upsetting. In the middle of England, there were very few Black people around in the ’70s, and it’s a different world today. I don’t have a problem with anybody — especially race.”
On Tuesday, Hinton continued the conversation. He was contacted that afternoon about his dismissal, but posted he would have appreciated the opportunity to apologize to anyone offended because he was talking about views held 50 years ago.
In a post Tuesday night, Hinton stated, “I have sincerely offered my sincere apologies to all? My point was it was 50yrs ago that we loved players of colour if they helped win? That’s 50yrs ago and I am thankful race relations are better today with more to do? Sounders gave me zero opportunity to state my case=50yrs ago?”
Hinton, 77, said he was unable to sleep Tuesday and is “embarrassed and confused.” He added that he will no longer attend team trainings or games, which he watched in the CenturyLink Field press box. That access is already denied as a result of the dismissal.
A Sounders spokesperson made clear the organization would have taken swift action to remove Hinton from his position because of the tweet no matter when it occurred. The current backdrop was as the club was crafting its statement regarding the civil unrest because of the racism Black people face globally and police brutality Black people face in the U.S.
The club’s statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday read in part, “We are outraged. We are heartbroken. We are angry. We are motivated. Our community is in so much pain. Our club is all colors. We stand with the Black community. We denounce all forms of racism, hatred and prejudice.”
Hinton was honored and ribbed in 2019 at an event at Kirkland Performance Center that helped raise funds for the nonprofit Washington State Legends of Soccer and featured Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer as a keynote speaker. In 1980, Hinton discovered Schmetzer, then a Nathan Hale midfielder. As coach and general manager of the A-League version of the Sounders, Hinton led the club to titles in 1995 and 1996.
“I’ve done my utmost for soccer here,” Hinton said. “I’ve done it for youth coaching. I’ve done it for indoor. I’ve done it for outdoor. I’ve won championships. I’ve won trophies, I’ve won games. … To be treated like this when I’m enjoying the Sounders so much because of Brian Schmetzer, who’s one of my young players from 40 years ago, it spoiled it for me.”