Shane Burley: Stick it to Sports

How soccer supporters’ groups fought the league and won—for now

Fans entering the General Admission section of Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers, on September 7, found a flyer on their seat. It was from the 107 Independent Supporters Trust, the nonprofit entity behind the Timbers Army, the supporters’ group for the Timbers, and the Rose City Riveters, the supporters’ group for Portland women’s team, the Thorns.

This was a reminder of an ongoing battle between the Timbers Army and both Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Timbers’ front office, the business entity for the team. The dispute was over what the Army labeled an “arbitrary” ban on political speech. The flyer included the Iron Front logo: three downward-facing arrows inside a circle, an almost hundred-year-old symbol first used by organizations fighting the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany. The logo is brandished by fans at games and emblazoned on Timbers Army merchandise, a reminder that they stand against the far-right.

“If you are against hatred, oppression, fascism, then you’re antifa. Simple as that,” read the flyer, speaking to why the Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters had decided to fight to continue bringing antifascist symbols and advocacy into the North End of the park. “We support the image as it is meant to be: a symbol of our firm stance of combating hatred—in soccer, in our communities, and in the world.” For the September 7 game, the Timbers Army had decided to stand down on some of its supporter roles, including lighting smoke flares when the Timbers score.

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