In the days following our match with San Jose, after careful review and support from Major League Soccer and leaders in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space, the club appointed a reputable firm to help introduce a restorative process to all facets of the organization.
Dante Vanzeir began a comprehensive program, including emotional accountability, restorative practice and cultural sensitivity sessions in mid-April with the outside firm. He continues to have sessions now and moving forward.
We have held restorative process sessions with our players, sporting and front office staff, Academy players and their parents or guardians.
Vanzeir met with the team as he re-entered training and was unanimously approved to be able to return to the team in an anonymous player vote.
"I would say that it has been a process. It has been a very long process for Dante, for our club, for our supporters. The process is not done by the reintegration this weekend. First, I would like to say that there is full focus on the match this weekend. I think that is very important. This group, since last Monday, has done an incredible job in focusing under challenging circumstances and this is another challenging circumstance. Wednesday night was challenging because we were down players. Now this is a challenging circumstance because of what’s going on in regard to Dante. In terms of his process, what I would like to speak to is, that the process started with Dante, number one. Dante did a very good job of admitting to the mistake, owning the mistake, recognizing that it was a huge mistake. There were consequences that followed that for himself, for our club, for our supporters, for San Jose. There were a lot of parties involved in this and he took ownership, maybe not in the immediate, but very shortly thereafter, in order to start this process toward healing. He has gone through a rigorous process, one that MLS has involved with, certainly our club has been involved with. We hired an outside firm to make sure that the restorative process was thorough. Speaking to that, he has been involved in six or seven sessions with this firm that has been a very important educational process about the impact of something like this for both himself and everyone that has been involved. The club, the players, the staff members. I think it has made him more and more aware of how that has effected others as well as why it is wrong and why this was a huge mistake. Where I can give Dante the most credit is the way that he's restored individual relationships within the guys that's outside of a formal process. This is what's impressive to me, the most impressive thing is he's taken the time to speak more individually with players and connect in smaller groups in his own genuine way. That's not guided by anything other than his own human nature. Right. Then the last part of this process to get him back to where he is today, the reintegration into the team for Saturday, is that there was a unanimous vote that took place from the team. Rather, there was a vote, but the vote was do we want them back or not, players only. And this was unanimous, saying we absolutely want Dante back in, we think that he's learned from the situation and he understands the situation better and will understand moving forward that there's still a lot of work to do. Dante -- this is a long answer, but I think it's has to be a thorough one -- Dante is now in a position where he's able to be back with the team. But that's been the decision through the process of the players, staff, club, that he's allowed to come back now at this stage. If others aren't there yet, supporters, anyone else, that's okay. That's understandable, in your own time. What I'd ask for though, is one thing that I said the other day and this is a lesson that I learned from one of our black players and one of our youngest black players in Serge Ngoma. I spoke to Serge shortly after this happened with Dante. And I said, 'How has this affected you?' I wanted to listen to him. And one of the things that he taught me was because I had, you know, mixed emotions about what was going on, as well. But the thing that gave me really good direction is this young, you know, just incredibly intelligent, black human being, there was a black player in our team and he said, 'Listen, this is a time that is going to allow me to educate someone on why this is,' he looked at it as an opportunity to educate someone, and an opportunity to be a good human being to someone else who made a big mistake. Another lesson in regards to that from Serge, to then Sola [Winley] with MLS, and it's hand-in-hand with what I'm talking about with Serge. This was a hateful use of words by Dante, no doubt about that. We can't tolerate that. There has to be consequences again for that. But Dante, we've learned, is not a hateful person. And he has to continue to prove that every single day. I hope that that answers this question, you know, thoroughly on him. If there's more questions I understand completely, but I also want to go back to the original point: we have to have full focus on Montreal this weekend and Dante is a part of that."
-Head Coach Troy Lesesne