Bad sports parents are as American as Apple Pie and Hulk Hogan.
These days, viral videos of adults brawling on the sidelines, assaulting officials, or just plain misbehaving are so common they could fill a daily slot on SportsCenter.
And then there are Claudio and Danielle Reyna, the parents of 20-year-old Gio Reyna, often touted as the future of the United States men’s national team.
So elitist in their plotting, scheming and excesses on behalf of their son, they deserve to have their jerseys retired to the bad sports parent hall of fame.
That was the only verdict one could reach after reading the report commissioned by US Soccer into the Gregg Berhalter and Reyna scandal – a debacle that served as a nasty post-mortem to a relatively promising World Cup performance in Qatar.
For the uninitiated, the Reynas — upset at their son’s lack of playing time on the world stage — threatened to destroy the USMNT coach’s career by resurrecting, circulating and weaponizing a violent episode of his past.
Although a schism between the Reynas and Berhalter has been brewing since the game against Wales, the madness really started after Berhalter, without naming names, revealed that he had almost sacked a player from Qatar because it did not meet expectations.
After the comments, which were made at a leadership conference and meant to be “explicitly unofficial”, were made public, many assumed he was referring to Gio. And an angry Danielle called on United States Soccer Federation athletic director Earnie Stewart to drop a nuke.
She told Stewart that Berhalter “beat to death” his then-girlfriend and future wife Rosalind (née Santana) in an alcohol-related incident in 1992.
Additionally, investigators said Claudio said threateningly to another official, “[Y]e guys don’t even know what we know about Gregg.
At the time, the Berhalters were freshman football players at the University of North Carolina. The disturbing allegations prompted an independent investigation by law firm Alston & Bird.
Berhalter was close. He said immediately afterwards he reported himself to his coach, sought advice and opted to do community service at a teenage correctional facility in Durham. He was never reported to the police.
According to Berhalter’s wife, the violent entanglement was an isolated incident.
The same cannot be said for the interference of the Reynas. The report found Claudio, a former US captain, had long been a serial nuisance, going over the top to influence the USSF since 2016. ‘extortion.
It may not have been criminal, but it was so diabolical and twisted it could have been a scripted Hollywood dark thriller.
After all, the couples are lifelong friends. Berhalter and Claudio performed together at the high school prom, and the latter served as best man at the Berhalters’ wedding. Rosalind and Danielle were teammates and roommates at UNC and remained close.
It should be a cautionary tale for the legions of sharp-elbowed, empowered parents who have led to the rotting of this country’s youth sports culture.
The attempted hit on Berhalter backfired spectacularly. He emerged looking like the poster boy for contrition – a person of character who is not only fit to lead the United States on the pitch, but even more so off it.
At 19, he made a very serious mistake. He confronted it, owned it, and took action to ensure it never happened again.
People are imperfect. And if we’re not allowed to stumble and make amends for our missteps and sins, then what are we even doing here?
Let’s hope the Reynas get the same grace they didn’t want to bestow on Berhalter.
And that their son, who is returning to the USMNT, is able to chart his own course, independent of his helicopter parents.