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This is the Timbers Army blog, where members can submit blog posts. 

  • 08/23/2019 8:33 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    Dear Timbers and MLS,

    When you ban a symbol that stands for resistance to oppression, you are siding with the oppressors.

    Everything else is just noise.

    Sincerely,
    Jeremy Wright

  • 08/22/2019 5:27 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Mike Coleman.

    In Sheba’s excellent blog post, she made a point to discuss the inherent conflicts that can arise from business decisions. I’d like to expand a bit on that and focus on the value of a customer, and why I think MLS and the Timbers are taking some customers for granted while inflating the value of others.

    All businesses are built on serving customers, and every business has a variety of customers it’s looking to satisfy. While it may hurt someone’s feelings to hear this, not all customers are created equal. Which customer you value depends entirely on how you want to run your business: Do you want a few customers who shop infrequently but make expensive purchases? Or do you prefer low margins that are offset by a higher frequency of purchases?

    At the risk of offending people, at the end of the day each one of us is a customer of MLS. Some of us buy official gear, we watch broadcasts, we visit the web properties, and we attend matches.

    In a Yahoo! Sports article today, MLS President Mark Abbot said: “The prohibition on political signage is in place to support the overwhelming majority of MLS fans who come to our stadiums to enjoy a great soccer game ... All of our fans and supporters are important to us and we will continue to engage with them to ensure that we deliver an incredible experience for all.”

    I’m going to make a quick aside here that’s not really in the vein of the rest of this post: If you say all fans — and that includes fascists, bigots, and Nazis — you can GTFO right now (and based on what we’ve seen in some stadiums, apparently it does).

    MLS is giving equal credence to all fans, but that’s a mistake, because there is a subset of fans — I’ll call them supporters — who are more important to the club than MLS apparently understands.

    Let’s go back to a time before I was even really aware of the Timbers. In 2007, Merritt Paulson, through Shortstop LLC, buys the Portland Beavers, and he also gets the Portland Timbers in the deal. Look at that name: Shortstop. Does that name scream, “I am buying a soccer team!”? I can’t pretend to know the true intentions, but that name ...

    In any case, Merritt has often said that he was warned about the Timbers Army after buying the club. To his credit, however, he recognized the Timbers Army as an incredible asset. He saw that the atmosphere was just the strategic advantage he needed to draw customers to his new soccer club.

    In the end, Merritt goes all in on the Timbers and makes the push to go to MLS. And, who’s his biggest ally in this endeavor? The Timbers Army. People literally quit their jobs to volunteer on MLS2PDX. They showed up at all the council meetings. They lobbied business leaders. They gave everything they had to bring the club they loved to the highest level.

    So, the Timbers are headed to MLS, and the Front Office decides they need an awareness campaign to reach people like me; people who didn’t even know the Timbers were still around. Who do they feature on those billboards? The Timbers Army. The same people who volunteered hundreds, if not thousands of hours, helping them reach this point.

    “It takes an army to raise a club.” In-fucking-deed.

    From my limited history, it really feels like bringing the Cascadia clubs and their supporters into MLS really was an inflection point. MLS featured the Timbers Army, ECS, and Southsiders in all kinds of promotional materials. The sold the league on the backs of the supporters who created an atmosphere unlike anything else in the US and Canada.

    I am unsure what MLS would be today without the ability to trade on the work of its supporters. I can tell you this: We’d not have an MLS club today if it weren’t for the work of those Timbers Army members.

    But now the league has grown; it has “matured.” Look at the pricing for the new sections added to Providence Park: $3750 for a seat in Tanner Ridge. The cheapest seats in the new section are $1150, making them more expensive than most other “normal” seats.

    And who bought those seats? A lot of them went to sponsors and local businesses. These people are the ones who just want “to enjoy a great soccer game.” But, the game isn’t just the 22 men or women on the pitch. No, not even close.

    These people also come for the circus. They come for the smoke, the songs, the tifo, the drums, the passion — they come for the same things that still brings goosebumps to my skin and tears to my eyes on a regular basis.

    The Timbers have been sold out since 2011, and the Thorns absolutely CRUSH the attendance numbers for women’s soccer teams — and quite a few men’s teams as well. But it’s not because we always field great teams (at least in the case of the Timbers). Why did people still show up when the team wasn’t doing great? Because they wanted the party that the supporters provide.

    So, which customer is more valuable? The company that buys four seats in Tanner Ridge to impress their clients? “Hey, Mortimer. Check out the Timbers Army.” “By golly, Randolph, those kids are absolutely bananas!” The folks who sit there to watch the dancing bears as it were?

    Or is it the dancing bears themselves? Is it the supporter who doesn’t have $15,000 to write off as a business deduction? They have to save to pay for their tickets — and save they do. And they show up. They show up when the club is winning, and they show up when the club is losing. They show up at their local stadium, and they show up in stadiums across the country. They show up in the downpours, and they show up brutal summer heat.

    Rain or shine supporters.

    And, let’s be clear: Customers like Mortimer and Randolph are usually pretty easy to deal with. They don’t rock the boat. They don’t ask for much. They want their soccer games fun, devoid of any pesky politics.

    They, along with MLS and the Timbers apparently, want us to shut up and sing.

    But us? The supporters? We’re not easy to get along with sometimes. We know that this is more than a game, and that the Timbers and Thorns can be more than just clubs. And, we’ll hold the Front Office’s feet to the fire.

    I’ll bet any amount of money that if the supporters were to go away and take that beloved atmosphere with them, you’re going to have a much harder time getting Mortimer and Randolph to shell out their money, because you no longer have a differentiated product to sell them: You have a homogeneous corporate sporting event no different from any other league in this country.

    Because the clubs and MLS don’t deliver an “incredible experience for all” — the supporters do.

  • 08/22/2019 12:06 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Jack Davis.

    What should I do?

    Let me begin by stating that I have no right to tell any member of the 107IST what to do. While I am a member, I haven’t really volunteered and I don’t stand in the TA/RCR section. I have met a few of you through various means and interacted with more via Twitter.

    Nor am I a member of a group targeted by right-wing nutjobs. I am as WASPy as they come – a straight, white male. I have blue eyes and blond hair for goodness sake. I know I am not a direct subject to the fear and trauma that permeates the discussion around fascism, antifa, etc. At best, I am a tangential member of the TA/RCR community; at worst, a privileged bystander.

    So I realize that I have no credibility to guide or advise anyone here. Stipulated. You are free to ignore my thoughts on the key question of the day:

    What should I do?

    Like many, I am struggling with the options. None of them are really good or satisfying. Boycott? Don’t spend money in Providence Park? Protest sponsors? Give up the Timbers and/or the Thorns? Take up a new hobby? Raise money for select charities?

    Realistically, none will be that effective in moving the vast machinery of MLS owners. I keep mulling over the pros and cons of giving up something I love for the cause and wondering would it really change things?

    Well, FUCK THAT.

    I may be on the fringes of the TA/RCR, but, dammit, I love what this group stands for and creates. And I am not alone. There are thousands of people like me that participate in the PTFC chants, that wave their scarves during OUR national anthem, but for whatever reason don’t stand in the North End. As the tifo said regarding Providence Park, “This place is magical.” And we ALL feel it, no matter where we stand.

    I remember several years ago when I told my daughter the story of the Sunshine Goal and Timber Jim, and why “You are My Sunshine” is sung at the 80th minute. She doesn’t even like soccer, but it touched her deeply. She immediately felt the love and support that this community generates. She loves the artistry of the tifos and two-sticks, and she sees a place where all are welcome. My other daughter (the one who plays soccer) sees the Thorns demonstrate daily that women can dominate, be strong, and be celebrated by crowds that most MLS teams would envy. They see every week in the stands and on the TV a raucous, fun, welcoming, politically astute, giving community.

    That is what is at stake here: Community.

    I know from meeting some of you and interactions on Twitter that for so, so many the TA/RCR is home. It is a place of welcoming, safety, and friendship. It’s a home that so many want and need, and may not even recognize it. But more, it’s a role model for the world, and it shows that practicing diversity, humor, decency, and radical inclusion is the best defense against fascism.

    So, what should I do?

    I’ll tell you what I want to do: I want to reclaim our heritage. “They” don’t get to define us. I want to reclaim the narrative and put MORE LOVE out into the world. More humor. More wit. More singing, rainbow flag-waving, more support, and more sunshine.

    That’s not to say that we stop fighting, protesting, or arguing for what we believe. The stakes are too high. But while doing so in each of our own way, remember to put positive energy into the universe. Defend this place! Because people need it — and others need to know it’s out there.

    I need it. My daughters need it, and those we oppose need to see it.

    What next?

    Be a beacon. Be a symbol. Get stuck in.

    I intend to do more. Let me know how I can help.

    Thanks,

    Jack
    @Lumberjack_pdx

  • 08/21/2019 6:08 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Sheba Rawson.

    I have been struggling to come to terms with what has happened between the supporters I love and the front office of the team I love. How did we get to this place? Why are we in such a contentious space — all over a flag with a circle and three arrows on it?

    On its face, it seems absurd. As a 107IST board member since 2011, I’ve had the privilege of working with the same small core of front office members. Over the years, we have had a mostly positive working relationship. They are good humans; I believe that on a personal level they do generally share our ethos in the sense that I firmly believe they are opposed to racism, fascism, white nationalism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. And given the current political climate, I’m sure they agree, generally speaking, that there are horrifying things happening out there in the wide world that they oppose. Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ folks, immigrants, and people of color are on the rise. Children are being separated from their parents at the border and put in cages under horrific conditions. Hate groups march in our very own streets. They agree that a philosophy that relies on nationalism, racism, rejection of the other, and silencing of dissent is abhorrent. And yet they refuse to let us fly a flag that is the very symbol of resistance to those beliefs.

    How did we get here?

    As I reflected and tried to wrap my brain around it, I thought about the working relationship we as 107IST board members and the front office have had over the years. It has mostly been positive and productive, especially when we focus on things that we both have in common: We want the men (and since 2013, the women) on the pitch to be successful, and we both care about the community. When we focus on those things, we generally get a lot done. Look at the front office work with Operation Pitch Invasion. Look at the space we have built, grown, and preserved over time in the stadium to provide passionate support for our teams, with smoke, tifo, drums, trumpets, and flags. These things work best when we are of common purpose. We are extremely grateful to have such a positive working relationship. It allows both the club and the supporters to work together toward unprecedented success.

    Then I thought about the times we have had our run-ins. The time very early in our MLS history that the front office sold a front office scarf with “No Pity” on it. The time that people popped flares in Rio Tinto and received match bans at home, while at the same time MLS used a picture of the spectacle in the stands in their marketing. The time several years back when the front office briefly floated the idea of carving out a slice of the North End to be reserved seats. The time a couple of years back that a front office line of clothing came out with a couple of items that looked uncomfortably close to items from our own No Pity Originals line.

    And then it hit me: Nearly every time we have gone sideways with the front office, it is because — even though we both love our teams and love our town — there are times when we do not share common purpose.

    Our purpose is to be the greatest football supporters the world has ever seen. We support soccer in and around Portland, from the grassroots to the highest professional level. And we support Team, Town, and Timbers Army & Riveters.

    But the teams themselves — the Timbers and the Thorns — are businesses. Their purpose is to operate in such a way so that they can remain in business.

    These purposes do not always align. Each purpose has merit, and often, the two overlap in wonderfully satisfying ways. But sometimes, as now, they do not.

    I am grateful for their existence: If they hadn’t been here when they were, the USL Timbers might have ceased to exist. Their purpose — and there is no shame in their freely admitting this — is to make a profit.

    And you know what? Sometimes that purpose is at odds with ours, which is totally normal and to be expected. There will always be times when a business owner or business group sees a way to maximize short-term profits that may or may not coincide with the interests of the people who frequent that business. That is when we as supporters feel the rub, and that is when we get into hard spaces that we have to work our way out of in order to get back to the strong, solid, common ground we have, which is supporting the teams and the town.

    When I thought about it THAT way, it strangely hurt a lot less.

    This isn’t personal, Sheba. It’s just business.

    The most obvious evidence of this when it comes to the Iron Front symbol is that it is perfectly acceptable to wear on one’s person in the stadium, just don’t fly it on a flag or hold it up on a banner. The official statement Monday made this point crystal clear to me:

    For obvious reasons banners and signs are widely visible to the broader stadium and television audience and thusly fall under a different set of guidelines.

    “Obvious reasons.” What could those “obvious reasons” possibly be?

    There’s only one answer: television audiences. You can’t easily discern the Iron Front logo on a T-shirt on your TV screen at home or at the local sports bar, but you can definitely make it out on a 9x12 flag waving in the stands.

    And when you think of it that way, all the rest of the noise falls away. Clearly, the front office and/or the league has decided that it is bad for business to have the Iron Front image visible on TV. What led to that decision? Who knows. Maybe some right-wing owner or league business partner saw the flag waving in some B-roll of the Timbers Army used in some MLS commercial and vaguely remembered it from some Fox News scare piece he’d seen. Maybe somebody pointed it out to some owner or league official when Seattle folks got booted for flying their “Anti-Racist, Anti-Fascist, Always Seattle” banner in Vancouver awhile back. Whatever the reason, sometime between 2017 and 2018 somebody with money saw that flag flying in our stands, and they didn’t like it. And at that point the league, and by extension our front office, had to make a business decision — and that is exactly what the Iron Front flag ban clearly is.

    Here’s the thing about business decisions: They are usually gambles, based on predictions of how the market will react. I don’t envy business people. They have to make tough calls all the time. Will the public buy more of our product if we do x as opposed to y? How much should I invest in the business in the short term in hopes of yielding a bigger return later? Is this the right price point? How do I appeal to the widest audience?

    Here’s the other thing about business decisions: If they look like they are wrong, you can always reverse them, because they aren’t actually based on moral principles. They are based on what is best for the bottom line. And again, there is no shame in a business admitting that this is what they do. 

    Once I thought of the Iron Front decision in this light, it was a lot easier to think it through. The decision to not allow the flag to fly didn’t have to have anything to do with deeply held moral values (though I do believe the individuals working in the front office hold strong, positive moral values): This was about the bottom line. Someone somewhere thinks that flying the Iron Front flag is bad for business.

    And if that is true, then our course of action is also clear.

    Look, I LOVE working with the front office on behalf of supporters. Our front office is TREMENDOUS to work with. They have afforded us opportunities that few supporter groups can claim. Opportunity to set up pretty complicated riggings for tifo. Smoke. Drums. Trumpets. Capo stands. And, most importantly, a good-sized chunk of the stadium that is general admission, which allows for new folks to be welcomed in with friends, to learn chants and song alongside more experienced people, to learn to love the game alongside its most ardent supporters, and to become Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters. To Get. Stuck In.

    So. YES. THANK YOU, front office, for being a tremendous business partner to work with.

    But you know what?

    We are pretty fucking tremendous SUPPORTERS to work with.

    We provide the front office with the most organized supporters the league has ever seen. Other front offices from around the league and even in other major league sports come to us to ask how to get the kind of supporters our front office has. We are legion. We are passionate. We are dedicated. We are inclusive. We get it done — in the stands and on the streets. Our support is second to none.

    And you know what? We are GOOD FOR BUSINESS. And that is okay with me ... as long as it also aligns with our ethos and with our mission.

    Here’s where I think our front office really went wrong on this one: They simply made a bad business decision. They assumed that a mere symbol on a flag could be taken away with very little business cost from us, in exchange for money, goodwill, whatever it was from whoever in the league or its partners was offended by the image on the screen.

    When we get into these tight spots, it is not unusual for one of the folks in the front office to shout in exasperation something like: “Would you like to be working with [horrible MLS ownership group] instead?” And my (usually unstated) response is: “No, of course not. Would you rather be working with [horrible MLS supporter group] instead?”

    And if this is a business decision with which we disagree, our course of action is simple: Persuade the front office that this is a bad business decision so that they can change course. There are several ways to do this, of course, including refusing to purchase food and beverages in the stadium, refusing season ticket renewals, and the like. These might or might not make a dent in a stadium that has a waiting list in the thousands for season tickets.

    But the biggest reason we are such an amazing business asset for this club is our passionate support in the stands.

    We joke about being part of MLS marketing. How crowd shots of the Timbers Army are used in ad campaigns for tournaments we aren’t even in. We know that our passion is good for business.

    So if our ethos is only worth supporting when it’s good for business, let’s make sure that not supporting our ethos is bad for business. You want to silence us in the stands? Fine. Let’s show them what silence sounds like. You want to reign in our visual displays in the stands? Fine. Let’s show them what that looks like. You want to control the message of those full, raucous stands? Fine. We'll show you what an empty stand looks like. I’m pretty sure they won’t like what they see.

    I hate that we are having to go down this road. But if this is just a business, we have to treat it like one. And that breaks my heart just a little. I always thought we were Més Que Un Club, but maybe I was mistaken. Come on, Timbers front office. Prove me wrong. Please.

  • You

    08/16/2019 4:33 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Patch Perryman.

    Take a moment during this first sentence because you’re going to need the extra time to get focused before you read the next sentence very slowly — and deliberately.

    This entire disagreement over the symbol with three arrows and a circle is about you.

    Yeah, that was harsh. Not really any other way to put it though.

    Here’s why this is so.

    You’ve been enjoying the matches, activities, and community for however long it’s been. You’ve got your rituals that you follow on your match days. There are people you hope to see in the stadium and long lists of steps you take to have a fun time with the footy.

    And now, your go-to routine is getting disrupted ... because of a symbol.

    And you know what: It’s not even over a symbol, but over the arguments about a symbol.

    You seem to be having a tough time with this whole Iron Front business.

    Yeah, a really tough time.

    You just wanna enjoy some soccer with your friends and a few drinks. Sure, yeah. That makes sense.

    You paid for the ticket, maybe even waited in line for a few hours. Got your favorite place. Same one. Every time.

    But after a while, all the flags and the smoke and the singing and the moving around … it’s getting kinda bothersome, right?

    Those drums are really loud! Can’t you just enjoy the sounds of the players and maybe hear the announcer?

    And those jerks in standing in front! They block your view and are always waving their arms and telling you to get off your phone and they’re interrupting you while you’re texting your friends and family members who couldn’t make it to the game and you just want to let them know that you’re having a great time without them anyway and besides you have a handful of cheap beer and food that’s at least twice the normal price that you could buy outside the stadium so of course you can’t clap or jump because what if you spill it?

    And now there’s this whole political speech stuff? “Man, I don’t need that at a match,” you’re thinking.

    You know you best of all after all, and you just want to enjoy some footy.

    You know what happens when you make it all about you?

    You wind up being the only one left when everyone who was looking out for you are gone.

    Because every person with an Iron Front statement, stencil, symbol, what-have-you? They’re the ones who consider people other than themselves.

    And they are looking out and standing up for you.

    Because there are some wealthy, empowered, connected, very selfish and angry people who don’t want the selfless people to keep standing.

    So, while you’re reading and dismissing what’s the best course of action or you’re complaining about how you can’t see the run of play or you’re shouting that the noise about this symbol is making your beer stale or you’re lamenting about whatever you think is making your game day so awful, those powerful folks get louder and scream at the selfless people ordering them to sit down and shut up.

    And they aren’t getting supported by you.

    Yes, you.

    Selfish you.

    You, are worth standing up for.

    Imagine if You, all of You, were Us?

    #AUnitedFront

  • 08/15/2019 8:44 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Rebecca Liddle Blair.

    Home. Church. Family.

    We throw these words around between us at Providence Park.
    In line culture for our first match of the season, I heard it over and over again.

    We’re finally home.
    We’re back at church.
    So good to see my family again.

    Embracing fellow fans and sharing cupcakes, we danced and talked with electricity crackling in our voices. Joking with traveling LAFC supporters passing by and trading stickers and dinner recommendations, we extend our community means even further. “Thank you for traveling,” we say and mean it to our so-called rivals as they move along, pausing our sidewalk games to wave goodbye into the night. Despite our differences, we share a love of the game that transcends 90+ minutes, and we join together when things are bigger than our club, our city.

    I don’t quite know how to explain how much it means to me that this community is one of charity and kindness — of acceptance and support for those who are marginalized or need a hand. Being able to pitch in and help others regularly with the supporters groups has returned to me a sense of genuine kindness I thought I had lost along the way. That feeling most certainly encouraged and guided me to move into non-profit work with the queer elder community, those who have endured persecution upon persecution only to trust me on sight and welcome me with open arms and homemade pudding.

    As someone who hasn’t really ever felt a part of something, I have struggled to find a sense of home, a belief in church, and what it means to be family. Through this sport and this place and these people, I have started to understand those comforts of the heart that have always been for other people. It’s no surprise, really. Our halls are filled with support and encouragement for our club and our community, giving strength to those who are unsure where they may land.

    You are welcome here.
    You are safe.
    You are protected.

    This is what the three arrows mean.
    This is what it signifies to someone who is different.

    We say we stand together here.
    When it matters.
    It matters now.

  • 08/14/2019 10:14 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Steph Nova.

    Hey, Don.

    Can I call you Don? I just feel like I’ve become so familiar with you and your spinelessness that I’ll go with Don rather than “Mr. Garber” or some other form of honorific.

    I’ve got to admit, I’m curious what led you to decide that it was a great idea to tell people that the Iron Front is banned imagery because it’s considered “political,” yet the league doesn’t disallow folks to go to matches wearing MAGA hats or various political campaign tees.

    Actually, I don’t want an explanation, but I do want you to realize this:

    By banning the Iron Front and bringing attention to the matter, you’ve caused a tremendous amount of people to look into what it means and why it’s causing such a stir. You’ve opened people’s eyes to a movement that focuses on people being treated fairly and equally in society.

    The growing mass of people educating themselves on the history of the Iron Front is directly influenced by you making the call to ban it.

    Looks like you shot yourself in the foot there, bud.

    Additionally, a lot of supporters have decided to boycott spending money in stadiums and on merchandise related to teams or MLS as those profits go straight to the league as a whole. Not only have you caused people to boycott concession and merch sales in Portland, but you’ve pissed off people in Atlanta and Los Angeles, your biggest cash cows. Whoops.

    Guess you shot yourself in the other foot there, too. Dang.

    There’s a way out of this, and it is incredibly simple:

    • Lift the ban on the Iron Front. It’s not doing you or the league any favors to keep attempting to suppress people’s right to express support for equal rights for all.
    • Withdraw the word “political” from the MLS Code of Conduct. The league clearly picks and chooses when to uphold this particular rule, and as such it should be removed. If you’re going to insist on banning “political” displays, cease all pregame anthems and the inexplicable militarization of patriotism.
    • Focus on inclusivity within the league. A weak “Don’t Cross the Line” campaign may seem like enough to you, but promoting true inclusivity is a way to make more people feel welcome at matches, more comfortable with joining our various soccer communities, and expands the fanbase (which so many teams desperately need. Don’t act like it’s not important to you to get butts in seats in Carson, Columbus, and San Jose).

    This isn’t a difficult hole to dig yourself out of, Don. Edit a couple of words on the code of conduct, treat all people with dignity and respect (unless they’re being hateful jerks, in which case make sure security is fully trained in how to handle those situations), and cease your bizarre crusade against the displaying of the Iron Front symbol.

    These are the fastest and most effective way to save face as this issue has been gaining traction worldwide, and it’ll start putting money back in the league’s pocket.

    Focus on those profits, Don. After all, the cash is all that matters to you.

  • 08/13/2019 9:46 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Sunday White.

    I was told…

    I was told I could be anything. That was a lie.
    I was told that we are the greatest nation. That was a lie.
    I was told the world was my oyster. That was a lie.
    I was told that some areas were “gang” neighborhoods. That was a lie.
    I was told English is our language. That was a lie.
    I was told that everyone had the same rights. That was a lie.
    I was told that all girls ended up married with a family. That was a lie.
    I was told we discovered America. That was a lie.
    I was told that all boys were breadwinners and strong daddies. That was a lie.
    I was told that the government was here to provide support. That was a lie.
    I was told there is wealth for everyone. That was a lie.
    I was told that nice girls are virgins and don’t get pregnant. That was a lie.
    I was told if I work hard, I could earn as much as another. That was a lie.
    I was told that those people on reservations were stupid. That was a lie.
    I was told that abortion is killing a human. That was a lie.
    I was told that those people working in the fields are illegal. That was a lie.
    I was told that illicit drugs required a war. That was a lie.
    I was told that girls don't fight. That was a lie.
    I was told that we have to help ourselves before others. That was a lie.
    I was told we have to “‘save for our future.” That was a lie.
    I was told if I was proper then I would be popular. That was a lie.
    I was told that those in power were looking out for us. That was a lie.
    I was indoctrinated to believe in our melting pot. That was a lie.
    I was told that girls don’t play sports. That was a lie.
    I was told I had to “pledge allegiance to the flag.” That was a lie.
    I was told that America was great. That was a lie.
    I was told I had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That was a lie.

    This is a short list of the things that as a straight, white, cis female child was told. This is before I realized that none of these provide breathing room for individuality, for humanity.

    The “American Dream” has never been real. It has always been a propaganda machine, and it was co-opted by immense need in the war efforts and following depression. Once we started to rebuild, there was a moment where we were deceived into thinking we had grown and were free. That was a lie. It never let go. We have been systematically raped, bullied, and stolen from (personally, as communities, and as a nation) for the entirety of our lives.

    We have been intentionally pitted against each other as a means of control. We have been trained through education systems and social training on what “should” be the ideal, with no way to achieve it. We have been force-fed a whitewashed history without ever having the opportunity to hear the truths of what our history has caused and the truths of those that have been trod upon.

    Wealthy America is walking on our necks to amass more wealth. They are happy to divide us. They are happy to allow white supremacy take hold. It allows them the ability to control the narrative. This cannot be ignored, condoned, or allowed.

    I speak up for the marginalized.
    I speak up for minority groups.
    I speak up for the future of the people

    I wield the Iron Front symbol as a badge and a shield. To support those that need a voice, a shoulder, a place to sleep, a quiet space, a place to scream, food in their bellies, and a sense of belonging and love.

    I support the need to stand for human rights. This means that the Iron Front banner needs to fly high — not just in the Pacific Northwest, or Flint, of Ferguson, or at protests — but everywhere that white supremacists think they may have a safe space or a toe-hold. (Hint: That is everywhere.)

    In response to this need, I will continue to spread the symbolism and knowledge of the Iron Front and #AUnitedFront to other supporters groups in the world of soccer and to all of the people I know outside of this particular venue. You do not have to be a soccer supporter to care about human rights. This will continue to spread.

    In MLS in particular, I ask that you remove the whitewashed shades from your corporate eyes and see that human rights are not a “political” statement. I demand that MLS rescinds its ban on flying the Iron front flag, and allows for supporters groups to show they are a safe and inclusive space. I demand that MLS removes the word "political" from its Fan Code of Conduct, as it is inherently arbitrary. I demand that MLS works with international experts on human rights to craft language in the Fan Code of Conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination. Their previous attempts at designing a Code of Conduct that is fair, equal, and supporting human rights have failed.

    MLS: You don't want to be another lie.

  • 08/12/2019 9:59 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following post is from John Lawes.

    So I’ve been following the tussle here, and elsewhere, about the league and the Timbers FO labeling the “Iron Front” symbol “political speech” and insisting on a ban on organized displays such as flags or tifos of the three-arrows-in-a-circle symbol. And following, as well, the ongoing conversation — largely through the looking-glass-window of social media — about whether this is a good thing (“Politics doesn’t belong in sport!”) or not.

    So. Okay. First, politics.

    Politics is simply a way of deciding, as Conan gets asked in the movie, “What is best in life?”.

    Politics is deciding who gets what, and how, and how much, and when. Politics is involved when you decide to spend your paycheck on a soccer ticket instead of a charity, or a donation to an electoral faction, or giving it to Safeway to give to Proctor and Gamble for some detergent soap … and which kind of detergent soap. You buy “organic” soap rather than “regular”? That’s “politics”: You’re choosing to fund one group of manufacturers and suppliers and distributors over another.

    Politics is part of your life. The only way you can separate “politics” from the rest of your life is if your politics are so mainstream that your freedom of action is not constrained by political activity. So, sorry, but insisting that politics and “everything else” be separated is your privilege talking.

    So — other than the comfort of not being reminded that your politics are comfortably mainstream and that those of others may be much more precarious — there’s no particular reason to insist that “sports” is politics-free any more than any other aspect of life be politics-free.

    And let’s not even get started on sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup that are positively soaked in “politics.”

    Now … you may not like the politics that the other person brings into the stadium, and that’s as much your right as it is anywhere else in the public square. But to argue that a soccer stadium is some sort of magical place where everyone should just forget their political differences and share a big old hug?

    C’mon. That’s your comfort talking, and there’s no particular reason that you or I or anyone else has any right to stroll through life in comfort.

    The “get politics out of sport” dog won’t hunt.

    Now. The “Iron Front”.

    Frankly, if you’re going to label one particular set of politics as less desirable than another, the notion of anathematizing the politics of anti-fascism seems on it’s face ridiculous in a nation that still celebrates the fact that it built entire air forces to carpet-bomb fascists and burn their cities to the ground. THAT’s kind of the definition of shoving your politics in someone else’s face, and the U.S. is still gleeful about it.

    MLS likes to tout its policies — politics — of inclusion. Well, fascism seems pretty much like the ultimate in line-crossing, so to be against it? That would seem about as safe a sort of political activity within an MLS venue as any imaginable.

    So why the fuss? Could it be that in this country, right at the moment, there are certain people, or groups of people, who may be becoming … let’s be polite and call them just “fascist-curious”?

    And that they’re making a fuss about the three-arrow symbol because it’s a way of reminding them about the whole “8th Air Force” thing and how fascist-curious is not just a spit in the face of that history, but pretty much a flat-out betrayal of the promises made by the whole American Experiment? That being anti-fascist is to support the fundamental premise of the best ideals of this nation, that all Americans deserve equal justice under law, not just the ones that meet the fascist criteria of inclusion?

    Every time we go to a match at Providence Park we go through the ritual of reverence for a hank of cloth and a reworded cover of “To Anaecron In Heaven.” Damned if I know why we pick the occasion for that; a meaningless sporting event seems like an odd venue to celebrate the politics of nationalist pride. But we do, and it seems like MLS has no problem with that.

    But if MLS has no problems with those politics, how can it have problems with then celebrating the symbol of a political ideal that is based on the idea of fighting against the very sort of politics that would seek to destroy the ideals of that cloth and that song? Doesn’t seem to be a very coherent way of thinking to me.

    So as far as I’m concerned, you go on to the soccer stadium and get some flag out there, Iron Front.

    Me and the boys of the 8th Air Force got your back.

  • 08/11/2019 11:09 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Shane Mount-Rubenfeld.

    Hi, Merritt.

    I’m going to presume you’re generally up-to-date with the broad aftermath of the Iron Front ban, which was awkwardly passed down from MLS HQ by your representatives. Perhaps you’ve read a few of these recent TA blogs. You have likely seen videos of white supremacists harassing and assaulting Sounders fans before their August 4 match in Seattle. I would hope you have also been made aware of the expressed intentions of Washington-based white supremacists and their pals to attend and cause trouble at Timbers matches.

    Portland’s fascist incursion is not a new problem: we live in a space sculpted by a century and a half of white supremacist public policy. Violent exclusion of minorities is a theme that runs from anti-Black territory law enshrined in the state constitution, past the unpunished massacre of Chinese workers in the late 19th century, past the Vanport displacements in the aftermath of WWII, past the murder of Mulugeta Seraw and the infestation of neo-Nazi skinheads in the 80s, to today’s sharp rise in hate crimes statewide. This story is still being written, and we are all currently playing a role in it via our individual and collective responses (whether passive or active) to both a nationwide and a local increase in racist organization.

    Merritt, we cannot place a high enough value on the unity the club has shown with the TA and the Riveters in our mutual efforts to make Providence Park an intentionally welcoming place to populations that too much of our country tries to exclude. For many supporters, this commitment to radical inclusiveness — more than goals, players, or trophies — is what cements our love for and loyalty to this club. This means not being passive allies, but proactive ones, as you were in 2013 when the Timbers and Thorns organizations publicly supported the drive for marriage equality. Then, you knew that standing in defense of human rights — which is an inherently political act in the face of those many who would use the power of the state to deny them — is worth defying the disingenuous "stick-to-sports" mantra of any who want their sports experience (not to mention commercial interests) to reflect and maintain a status quo of inequality.  A similar moment is at hand. 

    I hope you will recognize that league- and club office-produced boilerplate is not enough to repair the damage that has been done to this relationship. Supporters of these clubs deserve to hear from you directly, and I urge you to make an opportunity to communicate with us in a personal way as soon as possible.

    I’m confident no two supporters’ lists of questions for you would be identical, but there certainly would be some major themes.  Here’s what I would like to know:

    • Do you support MLS’s specific ban of the Iron Front symbol? 

    • If so, why? If not, then why did you extend this enforcement to non-MLS matches held in Providence Park despite the lack of similarly specific demands from NWSL and USL?

    • Do you believe that the league performed adequate due diligence or allowed an appropriate level of debate before handing down the ban on this symbol, and especially before making an explicit equation of antifascism with self-proclaimed white supremacist and fascist organizations?

    • Do you have confidence that the officers of the league are capable of judging “political’ symbols from “non-political”?

    • Relatedly, how do you resolve the league’s blanket ban on political expression, and your office’s public statement that “the Stadium should be a politics-free zone,” with the performance of the national anthem and the display of the flag of the United States before every match?

    • What are the possible sanctions from the league toward a specific club or club’s ownership making a public statement against this ban? What are the possible ramifications of failing to enforce the ban?

    • Do you have confidence in Portland Police Bureau's preparedness and willingness to counter the threat of white supremacist violence in the city in general, or in proximity to Timbers and Thorns games specifically?

    The Iron Front symbol is a visible representation of the best values of the TA and the Riveters. It is a declaration that we will not tolerate hatred in this space that you have helped make so special for our clubs, our city, and us supporters. I beg you to loudly advocate for us to the league as a whole until it agrees to:

    • rescind its ban on flying the Iron Front flag,

    • remove the arbitrary word “political” from its fan code of conduct, and 

    • work with international experts on human rights to craft language in the fan code of conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination.

    Sincerely,

    Shane Mount-Rubenfeld


Member, Independent Supporters Council

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