The following is a post from Rich Ybarra.
I was disappointed to read recently in print media and social media that the Portland Timbers owner and management had taken an active position to silence anti-fascism displays in Providence Park: in particular, the ban against Iron Front displays. I find this to be a particularly ill-conceived position. The last major organization to ban the Iron Front displays and eventually the Iron Front itself was the organization the Iron Front was created to oppose. Perhaps you have heard of them? The National Socialist German Workers Party, more familiarly known as the Nazi Party.
During the Nazi Party’s reign from 1933-1945, they imprisoned and murdered over 11 million Jews, socialists, liberals, homosexuals, gypsies, Christians, and any members of other groups that opposed them or did not meet their ideological standards of race and nationalism. As the primary antagonist in World War II, the Nazis bear a great deal of responsibility for the tens of millions of wartime deaths in Europe during this conflict. All this senseless violence was driven by an ideology of race, nationalism, and totalitarianism. Race, nationalism, and totalitarianism … Man, those ring a bell for me, do they for you?
Our current federal executive has repeatedly made racist statements, has banned entire countries made up of people of color from immigrating, has separated families of POC without cause, and has denied disaster relief to US citizens based on his racism (Puerto Rico), all while encouraging and accepting election interference help from a dictator (Putin) and repeatedly praising the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, leader of a country in which 2 in 5 people go hungry and 400,000 citizens are locked up in internment camps for expressing unhappiness about their leader. He has also praised de facto dictators in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
As a veteran of the Iraq War, I can tell you from experience what it is like to work with people who grew up in a totalitarian state. One example was the manager of a granary and bread factory in Baqouba, a town of 40,000 in which the majority of the citizens were malnourished. He was provided with money to pay his employees, several hundred tons of grain, and a list of local outlets where he was to deliver the bread. For over a month, he did not start production or even call his employees in. When confronted as to why he was not providing for his starving countrymen when he had all the means necessary, he replied, “No one from Baghdad has called to tell me to start operations.” The man had grown up in a totalitarian state and was absolutely mortified of making a decision on his own or taking any kind of initiative.
A second gentleman was from the town of Mosul; he was our interpreter. He was a rare breed, he was fearless to the point of recklessness; one time taking a round to his chest, his body armor was ruined. The man volunteered and went out on another mission the SAME DAY. In a quiet moment, when I asked him why he took so many risks, he simply reached into his blouse and pulled up a golden chain. On the chain was the Star of David: the man was a Jewish Iraqi. He said he would do whatever he had to do to live in a society where one was not persecuted based on their race and beliefs. These are the extremes of human existence, which is what this ideology produces.
I deeply fear that by stifling Iron Front signage, our club are making a safe space for fascism. Fascism is not congruent with our supporter’s culture or our city. At a time when our city and nation are being pressed by nationalism, racism, and fascism, it is not time to cede ground. Now is the time to plant our flag in the ground, stand fast, and do the right thing. This will not be the end of this fight, regardless of the outcome. It will be the first of many instances in which stand together, protect the rights we’ve won, and continue to fight for the rights of the oppressed. This time, this struggle, is bigger than football. But football will be the vehicle which we use to further our cause.
This is not a political struggle, it is a human struggle of good versus evil. As it stands right now, the Portland Timbers and MLS are standing shoulder to shoulder with Nazis. It puts the club we love in a very poor light and it makes my heart hurt to see it so. I have urged them to repeal the prohibition on flying the Iron Front flag, eliminate the term "political" from the fan code of conduct, and work with international experts on human rights to craft language in the fan code of conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination. You should too.