Former United States forward Landon Donovan attempted to clarify his involvement in a marketing campaign designed to encourage Americans to support Mexico at the World Cup by referencing his upbringing.
Donovan, 35, who was raised in Southern California and speaks fluent Spanish, has appeared in a series of promotional images as part of a campaign by Wells Fargo in which he holds a scarf that reads “My other team is Mexico.”
Several former U.S. players, including Carlos Bocanegra, Cobi Jones and current ESPN analysts Hercules Gomez and Taylor Twellman, were among those who criticized Donovan’s support for Mexico and urged fans not to support the U.S. team’s primary rivals.
But Donovan, the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer, replied to the disapproval on Twitter by explaining his stance.
“To begin, my heart bleeds red, white and blue and no one should ever question my allegiance to and support of US Soccer and its national teams,” Donovan wrote. “That being said, having grown up east of Los Angeles playing with Mexican teammates whose passion for futbol inspired me at a very young age, as well as recently with Club Leon in Liga MX, I always have had a strong connection and respect for our neighbor.
“Since the USMNT sadly is not participating in the 2018 World Cup, I am supportive of our CONCACAF rivals and would like to see them do well. If others disagree that is their prerogative; but similar to how the US Soccer Federation, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol joined together in the United Bid to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America, I believe in supporting each other and building bridges, not barriers.”
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 17, 2018
In a brief video first published on Wells Fargo’s Twitter account on Friday, Donovan said that “not everyone’s team is going — and that’s OK — Wells Fargo and I are inviting anyone in need of a team to root for to join us in cheering for the Mexican national team.”
Donovan, who has had an endorsement agreement with the bank since at least 2015, spent much of his career with the LA Galaxy, winning the MLS Cup four times and being named the MLS MVP in 2009.
He came out of retirement earlier this year to sign with Leon of Mexico’s Liga MX, making six appearances with the club.
The U.S. did not make it to the World Cup after finishing fourth among six teams in CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying. Mexico, which finished first, opened its tournament with a 1-0 victory over Germany, the 2014 winners, on Sunday.
Last week, a bid presented by the United States, Canada and Mexico was chosen to host the World Cup in 2026, defeating a proposal from Morocco.