Landon Donovan - July 2015
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Landon Donovan explains pro-Mexico stance in Sports Illustrated podcast

Landon Donovan triggered a storm of controversy with his decision to publicly support Mexico in this summer’s World Cup via a Wells Fargo advertising campaign. Now he’s expanded on his stance in an interview with Sports Illustrated on its Planet Futbol World Cup Daily Podcast.

It might not satisfy every US men’s national team fan upset to see one of their program’s all-time legends rooting for their greatest rivals, but it does shed some light on Donovan’s situation.

“I guess I should've been a little more aware of what might be coming," Donovan said of the widespread negative reactions he said were “unexpected” from his perspective.

“A couple of months ago Wells Fargo reached out and said, 'We'd like to do another commercial with you,'” he explained of the bank that featured him in a light-hearted ad dubbed ‘Hat Trick Rick’ after his retirement from the LA Galaxy in 2014. “So we talked over a few weeks and they said, 'We want to figure out a way to get people behind this Mexican team. And obviously, with the U.S. not being there and the heavy Mexican influence in our country, we want to find a way to do that.'

“I said, 'Well I grew up with Mexicans. I literally learned how to play soccer from Mexicans and I owe a lot of my career to Mexico.' And I said 'Believe it or not, I'm actually rooting for them.' Which took a lot of people in the Wells Fargo sponsorship and marketing team by surprise. I said, 'I do. I want them to do well. I just lived there for four months and I know how much this means to them and I realize it's probably a little bit controversial but I do want them to do well.' So anyway we put together the campaign.”

Earlier this year Donovan came out of retirement a second time to join Liga MX side Club Leon, winning over many fans in the country that has long seen him as a pantomime villain by proclaiming that he “doesn’t believe in walls” at a time of political unease between the two nations.

“In retrospect, I think I should've explained my personal story vis a vis the Mexican people and culture and how Mexican soccer has influenced my life and my career,” he admitted to SI. “I think that would have been a much smarter way to handle this as opposed to just coming out with an ad saying I'm supporting Mexico in the World Cup, because a lot of people understandably took that the wrong way.”

Donovan revealed more insights from the situation and also discussed his own future after parting ways with Leon; listen to the full episode.