August 12 – A Major League Soccer derby between northwest rivals Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders has burst into controversy ahead of a potentially politically-motivated clash between right-wing and left-wing activists on August 17.
Both clubs have banned signs and flags with the ‘Iron Front’ symbol, which dates back to an anti-Nazi paramilitary organisation formed in Germany in the 1930s.
Major League Soccer’s new code of conduct bans political displays at matches but supporters’ groups maintain the symbol represents opposition to fascism and persecution and is a human rights issue, not a political stance.
The militant Anti-Fascist movement, commonly known as Antifa, have been known to use ‘Iron Front’ to express their views.
“With the recent rise in targeted attacks against so many groups – LBTGQ+, immigrants, women, religious groups, and more – and the presence of fascists in our stadiums, this symbol represents our firm stance of combating hatred in soccer, our communities, and our world,” the board of directors for Portland’s 107 Independent Supporters Trust said in a statement.
Major League Soccer is the only professional sport among the top five in the United States with a code of conduct that expressly bans political signage.
“I think it was the belief of the league and the clubs that fans are at our games to enjoy the game and that there is a place for third-party political organisations or groups to express their views, but that place isn’t within our stadiums,” MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told The Associated Press.
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