The seeds of dissent were visible almost immediately.
Soccer officials had notified the Timbers Army, the main fan organization for the team in Portland, Ore., that the anti-fascist symbol its members had been waving on a giant banner in the north end of the stadium would no longer be permitted at games on the eve of the season earlier this year. The fan group was not happy, releasing a lengthy critique of Major League Soccer’s new rules, and working with team officials for months in meetings to change the rule.
But what began as an internal dispute between the league, the Timbers front office, and the fan group has morphed into a full rebellion in recent weeks.
The symbol, a re-purposed icon from an anti-fascist group, the Iron Front from Nazi-era Germany, has now popped up at stadiums around the country. The MLS ban of it has drawn harsh coverage from left-leaning media outlets. And a recent Timbers game became the venue for a nearly stadium wide protest, that saw two rival fan groups join in silence for more than a half-hour before openly flouting the symbol’s ban.