If things weren’t already chaotic enough, Serbian soccer player Aleksandar Katai was released from the Los Angeles Galaxy last Friday following a day of indignant protests by fans outside Dignity Health Sports Park. What was Katai’s great offense? Being married to Tea Katai, who made Instagram posts comparing police-brutality protestors to cattle, called for violent action against them (“shoot the s***s”), and captioned an image of a supposed looter carrying off a pair of sneakers with “Black Nikes Matter.” Days before releasing Katai, the LA Galaxy had requested the removal of his wife’s posts and had made a statement condemning “racism of any kind, including that which suggests violence or seeks to demean the efforts of those in pursuit of social equity.” Mrs. Katai subsequently took down the posts, and Mr. Katai issued a personal apology in which he rebuked his wife’s insensitivity. But these actions were not enough; Katai was still booted for his wife’s transgression.
To be sure, Tea Katai is a grown woman, and she should have thought twice before engaging in a national controversy in such a bloodthirsty and insensitive manner. And one may certainly argue that irresponsible actions should be met with harsh social consequences. But since when do we punish people so dismissively — LA Galaxy president Chris Klein stated: “the decision … was not a difficult one” — due to actions which are not their own? It would come as a great surprise if an athlete were released because his wife committed assault, or even murder. But being married to someone who has offensive opinions? Woke culture has decreed: “Pack your bags, bud.”
The last few years are rife with examples of people facing backlash for defying certain taboos. Celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Dave Chappelle, and Kevin Hart have faced “cancellation” — the boycotting of one’s services due to perceived offensiveness —with varying success at recovery. But being deemed guilty by association is another matter entirely. One cannot help but recall the Russian Revolution of 1917 to 1923 and the Chinese Communist Revolution of the late 1940s. After all, in the wake of these fatal movements, not only property owners and members of the bourgeoise were at risk of displacement, arrest, and death at the hands of their Communist leaders, but even those associated with such people. Of course, modern cancel culture cannot compare with these revolutions either in extent or in severity, but the “guilt by association” point of similarity is nonetheless troubling.
If progressives want to dominate the public sphere by sheer force, punishing dissenters with a permanently damaged reputation and diminished opportunity, so be it. But they should not pretend that they are engaging in anything but a display of might. And when it comes to punishing the spouses or relatives of those found to be irredeemable enemies of progress? At a certain point, it becomes difficult to balance one’s ideals of equality and tolerance with the very real and tangible way in which one treats the nonconformists. Aleksandar Katai is surely a wealthy man capable of handling his setback, but others will not be so fortunate.