Supporters groups, MLS to talk political signs
A trio of supporter groups, along with the Independent Supporters Council, will meet with MLS officials in Las Vegas on Sept. 19 in a bid to find common ground as it relates to the league's ban on political signage, and in particular the prohibition on the Iron Front symbol.
The Timbers Army, which supports the Portland Timbers, alongside Seattle Sounders counterparts The Emerald City Supporters (ECS) and Gorilla FC, have been at odds with the league since the start of the season when MLS announced changes to its Fan Code of Conduct. The changes included a ban on signs in stadiums that MLS deems to be political.
The ISC announced via Twitter earlier on Wednesday that the meeting would take place on Sept. 19. In a separate statement, the Board of Directors of the 107ist, the organizational arm of the Timbers Army, revealed that it had met with members of the Timbers front office, as well as community leaders in a bid to state their case.
"In the meeting, the community representatives provided input on the Iron Front imagery, its history, what it represents today, what it means to them personally as often targeted members of the community, and offered suggestions for going forward," the statement read. "The Timbers Front Office was very receptive to the discussion and the input from the community members."
The club released a statement saying: "We are pleased with the progress taking place and to have been able to facilitate our supporters and MLS getting together regarding the Fan Code of Conduct next week. We look forward to continued healthy, productive discussions with one another."
The Iron Front symbol dates back to an anti-Nazi paramilitary organization from the 1930s, and has been flown by the Timbers Army at Providence Park since at least 2017. But the symbol is used by antifa (anti-fascists) and because MLS deems antifa to be a political organization, the display of the Iron Front symbol on flags or banners is prohibited in the league's venues. Antifa and far-right groups have engaged in protests and counter-protests in the Pacific Northwest that have in some cases become violent.
The three groups joined forces at a league match between the Timbers and the Sounders back on Aug. 23 in which they staged a silent protest for 33 minutes over the ban on political displays. Once the game clock struck 33:00, not only did both sets of supports begin cheering, but they unveiled numerous Iron Front banners.
The Timbers decided not to sanction any fans over the incident, instead opting to give the Timbers Army a "general warning." But when the flags appeared again a week later at a match between the Timbers and Real Salt Lake, MLS and the Timbers front office took the step of banning "a handful" of Timbers Army members for three games.
The ISC statement also revealed that the Timbers Army as well as representatives of the ECS and Gorilla FC would participate at the aforementioned meeting, set to take place in Las Vegas.
The statement added: "The Timbers Army/107IST sincerely hopes that these meetings will move the league closer to revising the code of conduct in a way that makes it truly inclusive for all by consulting with impacted groups and human rights experts."