The silence was stunning. Portland Timbers soccer matches are renowned for their raucousness, but the first 33 minutes of the Timbers’ match against their archrivals, the Seattle Sounders, were eerily quiet. No singing, no chanting, no drumming, no signs of the collective joy that typically accompanies their matches.
The unnerving hush that thrummed through the stadium was the brainchild of the Timbers Army, the team’s supporters’ group. They organized with the two supporters’ groups from Seattle—Emerald City Supporters and Gorilla FC—to express their dissent over a new rule instituted by Major League Soccer that bans the anti-fascist Iron Front symbol on banners and flags at games because it has been deemed “political.” The league’s new Fan Code of Conduct states that such political symbols on signs “represent a threat to the safety” of matches.
Supporters groups across the country have taken issue with this new rule’s being implemented at a time when fascists and white-power racists feel free to flex in public. This is especially the case in Portland, a city that journalist Arun Gupta has dubbed “the epicenter of far-right violence.” Only a week ago, the city was engulfed by a hodgepodge of far-right groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and the American Guard, a neo-Nazi group with a violent track record.