(The following is is a guest blog by Luke Fritz)
What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2)
On January 18th, 2013, what would eventually become known as Rose City Riveters formally met for the first time. Today marks nine years since that day and the 2022 season marks ten years of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The two previous highest tier women’s professional leagues in the United States, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), and Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), each suspended operations after three seasons. When the NWSL was announced in 2012, Portland was among the franchises awarded, after not being a part of either WUSA or WPS.
In the years that have followed, the 107IST and Rose City Riveters have strived to set the standard for the support of women's professional soccer in the United States and beyond. Books have been written. Articles have been produced with regularity. And many supporters and players have moved to Portland because of this support.
But it did not have to be this way. It does not have to be this way now or in the future, either.
To continue with the Shakespearean motif that #BAONPDX references, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” (Hamlet, 1.4).
The current state of affairs between Portland’s front office and supporters of the teams here is a reminder that it takes years and years of work to build something that can be undone in a matter of minutes, or, days of silence that turn into weeks, months, and years. So, for a moment, let us reflect on where we came from.
In December of 2012, Mo Atkinson, who was 14 years old at the time, doodled a scarf design on the back of their high school math quiz, daydreaming about the newly announced NWSL franchise, Portland Thorns FC.
Mo’s final design looked like this:
As Mo wrote at the time: “I wanted this to resemble the iconic No Pity scarf, but I chose red and black because it's kind of fierce. Also those colors are part of the Thorns crest, and easy to distinguish from the Army scarf. I wanted to draw a TA parallel similar to the PTFC parallel, and after some brainstorming the Thorns Alliance name was my favorite.
By Any Other Name symbolizes that the TA will support the PTFC whether it's the Timbers Army supporting the Portland Timbers Football Club or the Thorns Alliance supporting the Portland Thorns FC. Of course it originally comes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, referring to a rose like the one pictured (with prominent thorns) on the scarf.”
After the original scarf run of 300 sold out in the days after Mo’s design went public, it seemed clear that more organizing would need to be done around supporting the new team (which at the time had 7 allocated players, including current team captain Christine Sinclair and current general manager Karina LeBlanc). Thus, on January 18th, 2013, around 40 people met at the Atkinson house in NE Portland, and attempted to flesh out what would become Rose City Riveters.
At the time, most in attendance did not think much of this, but the event was livestreamed (with 100+ people watching) and recorded by Jeremiah M. Braebeck (who granted permission along with Mo’s dad, Paul Atkinson, for the video to be shared again today). Here it is, in all of its two hour plus glory: the first ever planning meeting for what would become Rose City Riveters:
As Paul Atkinson (Mo’s dad) says around minute 8, the group began by talking about why it was important for us to support women’s soccer in Portland. Groups were formed to take on various aspects of running a SG. One of the groups was tasked with creating a name. The names at the time that came out of the meeting were:* Rose City Rebellion
* Rose Corps
* Rose Guardians
* Red Tide
This is all to say: nobody knew what they were doing. It took a lot of time, effort, conversations, and behind the scenes dedication to even begin Rose City Riveters (again: “what’s in a name?”), and no one person knows the full extent of it.
Today, on the 9th birthday of the supporters group meeting for the first time, it is important to reflect on that investment. Watch minutes 8-32 in the video, if possible. That is the reason we are here. Why we will continue to be here. And in the recent words of John Nyen, why what we have built can never be broken. It is our community. Remembering where we came from means remembering why we invest so much time and effort into supporting the players on the Thorns.
Happy Birthday, Rose City Riveters. Here is to many more.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Mo Atkinson holding up a two stick on April 21, 2013, at the franchise home opener for Portland Thorns FC.