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"Our sunlight is not for franchise"

08/24/2019 5:44 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

The following is a post by Josh Lawrence.

First... If you haven’t read these, please disregard what I’ve written and skip to these. These are the voices you need to hear.

Nothing personal. It’s just business.

Home. Church. Family.

The bottom line

I was told…

The Nazis didn’t send centrists to Auschwitz. They sent the anti-fascists.

Second ... I’m going to be honest, as I always try to be:

I think the Timbers have done enough in their advocacy for us, as supporters, to speak our mind. I believe that Merritt and the organization are genuinely anti-racist and anti-fascist; at least as much as a rich white man and a business can be. I appreciate their early support of marriage equality, and — what I believe to be their true support for us in their dealings with MLS — to allow us to have anti-fascism signs and banners, and to wear the Iron Front symbol on our clothing. I think that the Iron Front logo ban issue is a tough hill to die on — and right now it indeed does seem like Timbers Army and the Timbers are going to all die on that hill.

You know what else? It doesn’t matter what I think.

You heard me.

I’m a straight white man; tall to boot. It is the definition of privilege to say that I want to keep “politics” out of my stadium, and to think that since the Timbers have “done enough” in this fight that it should be abandoned; that we should just go back to watching soccer, drinking beer, and singing with our friends. I can go my merry way into a sea of people that look mostly like me (Portland in general, and Providence Park, specifically) without worrying whether I am welcomed there. Whether I am safe there. I don’t have to worry when I come back into my country that I’ll be detained at immigration because of the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, my accent, as Román Torres reportedly was. I don’t have to be terrorized by racist comments as I walk the streets of “liberal” Portland, as Andrés Flores’ wife Daniela was. When white supremacists come to my town, hell, I can choose my side. And when white supremacists are elected to high-level positions in our government, I don’t have to be scared that they’ll come for me or for my family. If they do, I can just become one of them, like a good, silent, white German citizen might have done in 1938, as their neighbors were dragged to concentration camps.

I don’t need to see a huge banner with a symbol representing anti-fascism, anti-racism, and anti-totalitarianism when I walk into my soccer stadium, because I can just fold into this crowd of standing screaming mostly white mostly men and become one of them, without thinking twice about why a standing screaming crowd of white men might not be the safest place for me to be, historically speaking.

But I know there are people that do need to see this banner. I’ve read the accounts from people of color, from transgendered folks, from LGBTQ+ community members, and from women, who might never have joined this family without seeing large and outward expressions of welcome and acceptance and support and safety that was prominently flown from our terraces, until it was banned this year by MLS, and by the Timbers and Thorns Front Office, because of its “politics.”

I still have a lot to learn. But I think and hope I’ve learned a lot lately — by reading, by following battles like this one, and by listening. One thing I’ve learned is that I can be an ally by amplifying the voices of those whose voices are historically underrepresented, drowned out, or suppressed. This is why I kneel during the anthem. This is why I try (with mixed results) to shut the fuck up when someone is talking about their experience, especially if it’s different than my privileged white male American life. And this is why I will support Timbers Army to the very end of this fight. I trust and believe in Timbers Army and 107IST. I never thought I’d say this, but I trust and believe in ECS and Gorilla FC in this fight. I trust and believe that they — that WE — are amplifying the voice of those that need this, that deserve this. That we have heard them and listened. I don’t believe that MLS or the Timbers or the Thorns have even asked.

So tonight — you know what? — fuck soccer. I’ll be there in 105 to support my family. That family is my little group in 105. It’s all Howitzers. It’s the whole Army. I’d be honored if I might include our players — Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse and Zarek Valentin and Andrés Flores and all of them — in that family. And today I’m as surprised as you to say it includes ECS and Gorilla FC.

But I’m heartbroken to say that, today at least, it does not include the Front Office, and it certainly does not include MLS (and probably never will). I’m there tonight to amplify voices that need amplification, because I have a loud voice (literally) and, as a tall white man, I have a loud voice. That voice has been co-opted in the past by Timbers and MLS for marketing; as “atmosphere” for selling tickets and raising prices. That’s not what this voice is for: This voice is to support our players. To yell to the rafters a message of love and support and welcome. To scream my support for any symbol that invites everyone in, whether it’s fucking “political” or not.

If it’s decided tonight that silencing our own co-opted voices sends the right message, I’m in. If we have to kill the “atmosphere” at the expense of our players, but really in support of our players, I’m in. In many ways, we’ve become the product that’s being sold — that is still being marketed, even today — and that’s ok to a point, but not tonight.

“Our sunlight is not for franchise.”


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