Log in

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

  • 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?


  • 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.


    Shane Mount-Rubenfeld

  • 08/10/2019 2:37 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Eric Sorenson.

    From the MLS Fan Code of Conduct:

    Using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior.

    It’s easy to gloss over at first glance, but one word stands out in sharp contrast to the other descriptors with a closer reading:





    The other words have definitions that are commonly understood, even if they have some leeway for interpretation: Reasonable people can disagree about whether the f-bomb lyrics in our chants are “offensive” (or are they merely “insulting”?), but everybody knows that someone yelling n-words or “p*ta” deserves a ban — and, arguably, a beatdown to boot. But what about “political”? League commissioner Don Garber explained further in an interview with ESPN:

    GARBER: Our stadiums are not environments where our fans should be expressing political views because you then are automatically opening yourself up to allowing counterviews. Then we're getting into a situation which is unmanageable and really not why the vast, vast majority of fans go to games. We just saw some research that was done where the vast majority of fans do not see sports events as environments that should be driven by politics. They want to go to a game and experience it and participate in a game without having to be confronted by issues that might make them uncomfortable.

    ESPN: But where you do draw the line, though? What if someone walks in with a Make America Great Again hat? Is a rainbow flag considered a political statement?

    GARBER: A rainbow flag is not a political statement. In this case, the Iron Front is a political organization.

    Clear now? An expression of the desire for equal rights, fought for by marginalized people, and subject to back-and-forth legislation, lawsuits, and hate crimes ... isn’t political. I’m being sarcastic, of course: Garber’s statement is absurd on its face. It doesn’t even pass the bar he set in his previous sentence: “… they want to go to a game without having to be confronted by issues that might make them uncomfortable.” The LGBTQ+ advocacy via fan displays, league events, and player outreach during Pride month makes some people extremely uncomfortable — as a memorable example, recall Jaelene Hinkle’s refusal to wear a Pride jersey for the USWNT.

    The 107IST organization eloquently stated that, contra Garber, the Iron Front flag is representative of human rights, rather than a political organization, platform, party, or candidate. The most common counter-argument goes like this: “That may once have been its connotation, but the usage of the flag by violent groups today has poisoned it beyond the point where it can be shown without invoking that association.”

    However, this is also an inconsistent: The exact same can be said for the United States flag, which has been co-opted by violent right-wing groups who literally wrap themselves in the US flag as they attempt to provoke violence.

    Indeed, much of the debate about what constitutes a “political” display completely ignores the most blatantly political display in sports: the military honor guard flag presentation and singing of the national anthem. These don’t figure in the calculation of political speech because they are part of the tradition of what Jean-Jacques Rosseau termed the “civil religion”: a set of religious-style rituals and beliefs that are aimed at glorifying the state (rather than a supernatural / deific entity as in non-civic religions). The American civil religion elevates the anthem and flag ceremonies to sacred status. This process is so woven into the fabric of our society that most people don’t even think of these as being political acts, until something disrupts the ritual and reveals the implicit belief system underneath it. The backlash to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest was intensified precisely because of this religious association: He (and Megan Rapinoe, for that matter) was not just making a statement of opposition to the political status quo, the protest also amounted to heresy against the civic religion.

    So, clearly, some political displays are welcome at MLS events; Garber’s explanation that they are “not environments where our fans should be expressing political views” is logically indefensible. This is why we have a very simple set of requests for the Timbers front office and the MLS organization as a whole:

    • MLS rescinds its ban on flying the Iron Front flag.
    • MLS removes the word “political” from its fan code of conduct as it is inherently arbitrary.
    • 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.
  • 08/09/2019 9:27 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Nate Dinsdale.

    I came across the following memo left on a CVS copy machine downstairs from MLS headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Thought I’d share.

    Iron Front Signage Policy *Addendum*

    Following a recent meeting with The Don, long-time MLS owner and noted massage enthusiast Bob Kraft, as well as representatives from prospective diamond-level sponsors Chick-Fil-A, Juul Labs, and Hobby Lobby, we want to close the loop on the Iron Front dialogue while also expanding it with a clear written message you can share with the [INSERT SUPPORTERS GROUP NAME HERE].

    Rule #1

    The Iron Front iconography — originally created by those resisting the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (or “Nazis” for short) — is an anti-fascist symbol that has clearly been appropriated by anti-fascists amid the current rise of what a casual observer might call “fascism” in the national discourse.

    But there are very fine people on both sides. And after checking our Suggestion Box at the MLS corporate wine mixer in Orlando over the All-Star break, we’ve learned that the symbol causes some discomfort when displayed by anti-fascist, anti-racist, pro-equality supporters groups like the [INSERT SUPPORTERS GROUP NAME HERE].

    As a result, we will be enforcing strict punishments for any Iron Front tifo, two-sticks, or other coordinated displays, starting with multi-game bans for violators.

    The recently revised MLS Fan Code of Conduct clearly states:

    Using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior

    And what is more “political” than a symbol of resistance against racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist language or behavior?

    We’re glad you asked. We would like to use this opportunity to provide additional clarification on other symbols that could be considered political and thus subject to the Iron Front Rule:


    To be specific, any flags, pins, signs, patches, ribbons or other visible markings that include the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple in sequential order. While this may appear to some as a symbol for inclusion vis-à-vis the LGBTQ community, it can be seen as exclusionary of those who do not subscribe to basic human equality or care to develop an acute appreciation for Judy Garland. Plus, it’s a possible affront to the color-blind who may experience confusion by all those flags sporting multiple hues of gray. BANNED

    Peace Sign/Dove + Olive Branch

    It may seem ubiquitous, but the peace sign (☮) is anything but harmless. Its association with leftist counterculture movements and people who say “Military Industrial Complex” like it’s a bad thing could prove divisive. As for doves, well, they’re basically elitist pigeons. BANNED


    The image of a clenched fist has come to represent solidarity, particularly for progressive activists, blue-collar workers, and people with higher levels of melanin than your average Norwegian. But it can also be construed as a signal of aggression and/or support for different forms of impolite resistance. Plus, our research intern came across some pretty unsavory definitions of “fisting” on the internet. BANNED


    These audacious botanical marvels remind us of our childlike innocence before it was traded for some TAM and GAM. And we recognize that sunflowers have become a deeply heart-warming symbol for certain supporters groups. But they do require a substantial amount of water to be properly cultivated, and we’re thinking about the environment here. Maybe a nice non-threatening air plant or neutral-party cactus instead? Plus, there could be cultural appropriation claims pending from Sporting Kansas City. BANNED

    The Color Pink

    Or “salmon,” depending on your Crayola set of references. In the past, pink symbolized breast cancer awareness, but then we focus-grouped it and discovered that some customers find it’s not particularly intimidating on a kit. In addition, there’s a potential gender discrimination suit given many of our middle-aged male fans also have what a clinician might reasonably classify as “breasts.” But it’s far from us to adjudicate whether this is because of natural physiology or from regularly succumbing to the new Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. BANNED

    MLS Presents The #DontCrossTheLine Campaign Sponsored by Continental Tires

    Now we’re talking about a real, meaningful call for social change. PLUS, for a limited time you can stand up against bigotry and get $50 off your next set of radials when you tag your social posts #MLSworks #TIREDofRacism. ALLOWED

    We hope this clarifies the issue. As we often say, we won’t always agree but we will always be open, honest, and respectful. We have a track record of being cooperative and working with [INSERT SUPPORTERS GROUP NAME HERE] on a variety of potentially divisive issues that together we have resolved in a positive and peaceful way. It is our sincere hope that this is another case of just that.

  • 08/08/2019 10:53 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Jonathan Everett.

    The Iron Front was used by those who opposed the rise of fascism to cover up swastikas during the 1930s in Nazi Germany. The origins are well documented. These origins speak to anti-fascism and anti-racism. These ideas are not about politics, but about ethics.

    MLS is now telling us that they believe that the Iron Front flag with its three arrows is too political to be flown at soccer games. Ironically, these games benefit dramatically from the efforts of the best players all over the world, regardless of race, religion, or creed. For MLS to say that they’re happy to accept the fans’ enthusiastic dollars to see their favorite international players — but not be willing to stand up to ensure the rights of those players’ fellow citizens is timid at best and criminal at worst. My disgust is palpable, and yours should be too.

    It was just over two years ago that two people were murdered in Portland for defending young Muslim girls on the MAX. It was less than two years ago that a girl was killed by American Nazis in Charlottesville. The people responsible for those murders were groups chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” These acts were racially driven by those whose lives are driven by hate for anyone different than themselves.

    In 2019, MLS ruled that they will not allow us to adopt and display the symbol that represents our repulsion of fear and hate. Their ruling is couched in the political mire of current events but ignores the more pressing issue. Their opposition to the symbol is tantamount to condoning the most deplorable actions of those who advocate for murder of anyone determined to be “other.”

    I reluctantly accept why a business such as MLS would try to avoid any type of potential controversy; however, denying independent supporters’ groups the right to freely express themselves as being anti-fascist while displaying the logo of such historical importance is disheartening. It is even more frustrating that our own Timbers Front Office would bow to the demands of MLS and be complicit in enforcing these types of rules. History is on the side of respect for humanity, for trying to understand our differences, and for what the Iron Front stands for. If MLS and our Front Office can’t take a stand that being anti-fascist is, in essence, the foundation of morality, then what types of organizations are they? Are they organizations we should stand behind and support?

    Will our Front Office freely admit to being hypocritical in disallowing the Iron Front, but allowing St. Pauli to play in Providence Park, while profiting directly from shirt sales with slogans such as “Good Night, Alt Right” with a fist smashing a swastika? Have the times changed so much since last year that a flag with that logo would now be banned in Providence Park? Clearly St. Pauli has an agenda. It is in their fundamental principles, and they recognize that the overall morals of the community should be, and are, directly represented and supported by the Front Office. I wish our club would do the same.

    The Portland Timbers Front Office needs to step up and do the right thing. I challenge each of you to join us in our protest against arbitrary rules from a corporate entity who is not on the right side of history; an entity who has chosen to not recognize or respect the collective values of a city it directly profits from.

    I unequivocally stand with the 107ist Board and demand the following:

    1. MLS rescinds its ban on flying the Iron Front flag.
    2. MLS removes the word “political” from its fan code of conduct as it is inherently arbitrary.
    3. 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.

    Will you stand with me?

    Note: Very small credit should be given to Taylor Graham from the Seattle Sounders Front Office for acknowledging that you shouldn’t compare the use of the Iron Front and what it stands for with other political organizations and subsequently be complicit in normalizing an increasingly aggressive right wing.

Member, Independent Supporters Council

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software