Lyon president finally explains his creepy Twitter obsession with Alex Morgan

And we’re not buying it

(Jean-Michel Aulas/Twitter)

Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas’ weird Twitter obsession with Alex Morgan is exceedingly well documented. That’s the point; he is doing this on Twitter. Over the course of Aulas’ multi-year tweeting spree, the exact motivations for his actions remained unclear.

Now, however, he appears to have come clean to the magazine Lyon 2.0 [translation below]:

Do you think that a club president can currently recruit players on Twitter?

No, definitely not. For instance, I tweet Alex Morgan jokingly. If I wanted to contact her, I’d call her agent. Seeing the reaction of dweebs who think I come on Twitter to get in touch with her cracks me up, that’s the goal, I get endless amusement from Twitter. Then you know, I read the tweets and when I see “president, you made me laugh,” I tell myself that the joke worked.

Let’s be clear: In that quote, Jean-Michel Aulas admits to periodically sending a woman on Twitter replies that have nothing to do with her initial tweets just to amuse himself and his fans. That is not an accusation; it is a summary of Aulas’ own point. Thus, when Morgan tweeted about the importance of voting, Aulas thought this collection of words was a reasonable reply:

At best, Aulas’ reply is a sequitur. Then again, by his own admission, it’s not meant to function as a response; it is a piece of performance art designed to amuse his followers. Morgan is an unwitting participant in his joke. Indeed, some soccer fans played along [again, translation below]:

I could see you as the French Trump (in a good way!). You’re already the greatest club president in the history of French football.

That is not to say there wasn’t any backlash to Aulas’ creepy schtick, but in typical Internet fashion those commenters received their own backlash:

You’re making everyone uncomfortable, Jean-Mi [sic]

Who do you think you are with your 504 followers? Go back to encouraging Maëlle Garbino [a midfielder formerly with Lyon’s women who recently transferred to cross-town rival Saint Étienne]

In typical troll fashion, Aulas is never really the one who suffers from the chaos of his own sad little joke. A few angry commenters are unlikely to affect them, but they pay a comparatively high price for their principled stance. Alex Morgan, meanwhile, has to deal with the periodic influx of weird dudes in her mentions. This is the sort of thing that Twitter vaguely allows users to filter out, but the glomming-in mechanic is fundamental to how Twitter harassment works. There is also an unambiguously gendered undertone to all this: Aulas has, as best we can tell, never reached out to a male player in this manner on Twitter. Morgan is his main target, but he’s tweeted at other female soccer players; what, you might ask, do all these people have in common? This, in other words, is a social ecosystem calibrated to the whims of Jean-Michel Aulas and nobody else.

This whole seedy story accentuates some of the seamier qualities of transfer rumor mongering. This soccer convention already encourages fans and teams to think of players as little more than pieces of chattel—assets that can be bought or sold at little more than a whim. The solitary sliver of humanity in this system comes from a community of norm of not discussing business in those terms. That doesn’t solve the underlying problem, but at least it makes the whole thing less creepy. Transfer politicking is never more than a few turns of phrase from being utterly indifferent to basic human decency.

Jean-Michel Aulas, through his Twitter feed, has literalized the implicit logic of the transfer market. It is a time for rich club owners to treat human lives and careers like pawns and get feted for it by adoring fans. For good measure, he’s added a fair bit of sexism into the mix.

The only thing that could make Aulas’ quote more galling is if it weren’t even true. And, well, that’s entirely possible. The whole thing reads like an attempt to say “you’re not laughing; I’m laughing!” It seems reasonable to believe that he is indeed laughing, but the man doth protest too much. To quote another famously piggish Twitter power-user: Sad!