Fans of the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers protested Major League Soccer's ban on political signs and displays at games Friday.

By Charlotte Carroll
August 23, 2019

The Timbers Army, which is the fan group for the Portland Timbers, joined fans of the Seattle Sounders on Friday to protest Major League Soccer policy that bans political signs and displays at games, reports The Oregonian's Jamie Goldberg. 

The league's new fan code of conduct, implemented at the start of this season, prohibits "using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior."

The Sounders and the Timbers banned signs and flags with the "Iron Front" symbol, which they say has become appropriated by some in the loosely structured Antifa movement, at times in the context of violence. The symbol of three arrows pointing downward and to the left dates back to an anti-Nazi paramilitary organization formed in Germany in the 1930s. Supporters' groups maintain the symbol represents opposition to fascism and persecution—a human rights issue, not a political stance.

During the game Friday, the protestors did do their traditional displays or engage in "organized chants and songs, choreography, flag-waving, or playing of drums or trumpets." According to Goldberg, many fans were also silent until the end of the 33rd minute to honor 1933, which was the year the Iron Front was disbanded in Nazi Germany. At the 33rd minute, fans then sung a version of "Bella ciao," an Italian anthem of anti-fascist resistance. Some fans also held up Iron Front banners, which was in violation of the league's ban.

Both fan groups have been vocal on social media in promoting the protest ahead of the matchup and pushing back against the ban.

Ahead of the game, Timbers and Sounders captains exchanged pennants that included the phrases, "anti-fascist" and "anti-racist."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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