And then, four months after his initial comments, Cohen abruptly cancelled World Soccer Daily. “This is a country based on freedom of speech, freedom of ideas, freedom of business, freedom of a lot of things,” he said in the show’s final episode. “For me it’s over.” (Cohen went on to start an online show, World Football Daily, which he left in 2011; that show still exists, but with new hosts, it’s virtually unrecognizable.)
Five years later, as we approach the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough, the legacy of the Boycott Steven Cohen movement remains problematic. Cohen expressed an unpopular opinion in an insensitive way – and kept expressing it, even when it became clear he was wrong. Angry fans debunked his theory, scared away his sponsors, and then proclaimed a victory for democracy. Channeling the power of social media, they stuck a blow against misinformed punditry.
But, in the process, the fans silenced a genuinely interesting broadcaster. Cohen was wrong about a lot of things, but his show – always entertaining, occasionally intelligent – was essential to the development of soccer’s American fan base. I miss listening to it. I understand the anger of the supporters who boycotted Cohen to protect the honor of the 96. But I miss listening to World Soccer Daily.