We appreciate Commissioner Don Garber's attempt to clarify his remarks from the past weekend, and we look forward to continuing the conversation. We do, however, need to set the record straight:
The Timbers Army did not come to MLS and ask for “permission to hang ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs in the stadium.” The rail banner mentioned was painted by a supporter in our midst, carried in, and hung without incident (other than a lot of positive responses in the stands and online). The Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters, through 107IST, have a strong working relationship with the Timbers and Thorns front office. We don't always agree, but we have a healthy respect for each other and pretty clear lines of communication. For the Commissioner to imply that somehow we run to MLS to seek approval for every display of support, no matter how small, is misleading.
We appreciate that the Commissioner does not want to get the league “into a position where we have to determine what is political and what is not.” We absolutely agree. We would refer the commissioner to our response to the Fan Code of Conduct, which states in part:
"We have strong reservations about the simple inclusion of the word ‘political’ in the Code of Conduct without greater clarification. As a supporters group, we have always abstained from party politics, have never endorsed a candidate for office, and have yet to endorse or oppose any specific ballot measures. That said, some of our messaging and actions related to human rights have been characterized myopically as ‘political.’ We have always maintained that human rights are not political, and yet, we actively participate in activities that can be potentially construed as political depending on what definition is used.”
Finally, we want to reiterate our strong support for the league’s stance against racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and sexism as expressed in the newly released Fan Code of Conduct. In our response, we also recommend that MLS:
“...expand the wording of the MLS Code of Conduct to reflect Section 2 of FIFA’s Human Rights Policy to include indigenous peoples; national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; children; disabled people; and migrant workers and their families. Likewise, we hope that the identified risks of Discrimination and Security outlined in Section 5 can be a more transparent part of MLS procedures. Pursuant to Pillar III of FIFA’s Human Rights Approach, we hope that MLS will protect other human rights defenders and engage with a ‘wide range of stakeholders, including potentially affected groups and individuals and their legitimate representatives, on a regular basis’ in the spirit of Pillar IV.”
We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the league. In the meantime, we will continue to stand up for human rights — in the stands and in the streets.