Major League Soccer just walked back its ban of an anti-Nazi symbol at its soccer matches

CNN Sports 2 months ago

Major League Soccer is reversing their ban on the Iron Front symbol. The decison follows fans protesting for weeks through walkouts and silent demonstrations during televised soccer games.

MLS and the Seattle Sounders said the flag is a political symbol, banned under the league's code of conduct for fans. The Seattle Sounders fan group, The Emerald City Supporters, said in a statement on its website that the imagery is a symbol of the fight against fascism, oppression and persecution.

The imagery, three arrows pointed leftward and down, was actually used by a pro-democracy, anti-fascist German paramilitary organization, the Iron Front. They actively fought against the Nazis during their rise to power before World War II.

    Earlier this year, MLS banned the symbol under their fan code of conduct prohibiting politics in their stadiums.

    MLS is overturning that ban after two meetings with Seattle and Portland, Oregon, soccer fan groups and the Independent Supporters Council. The council promotes soccer fan culture and fair treatment of fans at home and away matches.

    The reversal came after sustained and widespread protests across the league by soccer fans.

    "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 leaders of the supporter groups said in a statement provided by MLS.

    League President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott told CNN in a statement that the league will be updating the code of conduct for 2020 with a working group to, "ensure clarity and consistency."

    "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," Abbot went on to say.

    A statement from MLS also reaffirmed, "its long-time commitment to the values of inclusion and diversity, including opposition to racism, fascism and homophobia and to ensuring that there is no place for repugnant hate speech in MLS stadiums."

    How the ban began

    The Emerald City Supporters flew a flag bearing the Iron Front emblem at a Seattle Sounders match on July 21.

    "The three arrows represent our commitment to equality and inclusion," the group wrote on their website. "The three arrows have been a symbol of the fight against fascism, oppression and persecution and to this day continue to represent these important values around the world."

    After the match, the fan group received a formal warning from the Seattle Sounders, saying the emblem violated the MLS Fan code of conduct: political signage that represent an association to a political group is not allowed.

    "The rights we stand for are not political, they are human rights," the group responded.

    Fans protests become a movement

    The move to ban the emblem from all MLS games drew instant criticism and outrage from fans across the league.

    The hashtag #AUnitedFront became a rallying cry on social media and signs across the league. Some fans covertly placed the Iron Front arrows on signs, others wore it on shirts and arm bands.

    One of the most dramatic protest happened on August 23. In a major rivalry game between Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders, fans on both sides united and stayed silent for first 33 minutes of the game.

    A joint statement from the two rivals fan groups says it in protest of the MLS ban on the imagery, "to commemorate 1933, the year the Iron Front was disbanded in Nazi Germany."

      The Portland Timbers fan group, Timbers Army, made their message clear in a post on Twitter.

      "What scares you more, MLS?," it read. "Three anti-facist arrows down and to the left? Or The Sound of Silence?"


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