The following is a statement on behalf of the 107IST board of directors.
As many of you have seen, the Timbers Front Office issued a statement about their ban of the Iron Front symbol at Timbers, Thorns, and T2 matches. We would like to address some of the points in the statement.
- Yesterday’s statement from the Front Office comes directly on the heels of one of the most upsetting weekends in recent memory for many of our members — a weekend where avowed white nationalist demonstrators descended on Portland, many of whom had publicly called for violence. The timing is puzzling to say the least and damning at the worst.
- When discussions about the Iron Front image started, we repeatedly asked the Front Office for a public statement, but we could not get anything in writing. Finally, with the first home match looming, we effectively had to force the FO to put together something we could share with our members.
- If the Iron Front flag ban is an MLS policy, we have never seen any kind of official document from MLS stating this, and, once again, the most recent statement about it appears courtesy of the Timbers Front Office — in fact, the only “official” statements have been from the Timbers and Sounders front offices. The Seattle statement, in particular, included additional information that was not shared with us by our own Front Office or by the league.
- The 107IST board has been working with the Independent Supporters Council (ISC), who have been attempting to engage in a dialogue with MLS headquarters on these issues since January.
- The Timbers Front Office continues to use the word “dialogue” around the Iron Front situation, but this is an incorrect word. This policy and any associated actions have been unilaterally dictated to the 107IST board by the Front Office. Any “dialogue” at our meetings with them has been met with vague replies such as “We will continue this discussion later” or “Thank you for the input, but the league’s policy on this stands.”
- The Timbers Front Office continues to maintain that they have received much support for the ban, but they have shared no metrics and few details. At the time of this writing, the 107IST board has received more than 50 copies of emails to the Front Office opposing the ban, and 0 emails supporting the ban. We recognize that we are likely to hear from only a subset of supporters, but these are the only metrics we have on letters to the Front Office, and they are wholly at odds with what they say they are hearing. Most importantly, however, some decisions are beyond metrics: Deciding when and whether to stand up for human rights and inclusion should not be subject to email and phone call ratios.
- The 107IST board has expressed in no uncertain terms that not only do we disagree with the implementation of this policy, we also disagree with what it represents at a more basic level: the ability to arbitrarily, unilaterally, and subjectively interpret symbols and ideas as “political,” something we've already seen happening across the league in recent weeks. This is especially worrisome with clubs and ownership in MLS who refuse to even acknowledge Pride Nights by claiming they are “too political.” Our Front Office has acknowledged that the policy is fluid, open to interpretation, and has the potential to change.
- We are frankly appalled that the Timbers Front Office has repeatedly attempted to conflate their support for marriage equality five years ago with the issues discussed of late, apparently to somehow buy back goodwill for their position. The support of basic human rights should not be used to attempt to gain points in the court of public opinion — it’s the bare minimum to which we should hold our institutions accountable.
The MLS Fan Code of Conduct was envisioned to bring about clarity, specifically with respect to equal treatment of supporters across the many clubs in MLS. The implementation of that has been anything but, showing that clubs (for example, Columbus, Atlanta, Chicago, and LA) can — and will — interpret the rules however they see fit, with supporters paying the price.
As our city, county, and state governments join with community organizations and the business community to make it clear that hate is not welcome here, we are disappointed that our Front Office is not a part of these efforts. While they continually reiterate that they share our ethos of acceptance and against hate, we have continually left the door open for them to do the right thing in this situation. That door is still open.
The 107IST board remains committed to asking MLS and the Timbers Front Office to rescind the subjective ban on “political displays” and come together with supporters and human rights experts to enact a Fan Code of Conduct that protects the game we love, as well as the supporters who make it unique.