MLS lifts ban on anti-Nazi symbol following fan protests

USA Today Sports 1 month ago

Major League Soccer is lifting its ban on signs and banners featuring an anti-Nazi symbol for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.

A handful of fans in Portland were prohibited from attending matches this season after challenging a ban on the Iron Front, a symbol with three arrows pointed downward and to the left that was first used by an anti-Nazi paramilitary group in the 1930s. The league had said the emblem violated a ban on political displays included in the MLS fan code of conduct adopted this season.

MLS maintained the symbol is political because it has been appropriated by antifa, loosely organized militant groups of anti-fascists that sometimes engage in violence. Supporters' groups maintain the Iron Front represents opposition to fascism and persecution — a human rights issue, not a political stance.

Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders supporters' groups, as well as the Independent Supporters' Council, protested the ban, and some fans across the league continued to use the symbol on flags, banners and signs at games.

Both sides met last Thursday in Las Vegas to find a resolution. An additional conference call was held Tuesday afternoon.

MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement the league would also form a working group, including representatives from the league, its clubs, the ISC and the supporters' groups, to re-examine the code of conduct going forward.

"This working group will include representatives from the league office and clubs and work collaboratively with leaders of club supporter groups and a cross-section of diversity and inclusion experts," Abbott said.

The supporters groups also issued a statement.

"The Independent Supporters Council and supporter groups for the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC acknowledge the league's willingness to discuss these complex issues, as well as the league's affirmation of its long-time opposition to racism, fascism, white supremacy, white nationalism and homophobia," the statement said. "We appreciate Major League Soccer's willingness to engage, listen, and learn. We look forward to continuing the dialogue, moving away from direct action in the stands on this issue, and instead focusing our energy on making progress around the table."

The league's fan code of conduct, implemented this season, prohibits "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."

Earlier this season, a fan waving a Trump 2020 flag was removed from Providence Park.

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