After Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard was hit with three-game suspension for foul language directed toward a fan at the Rapids' MLS match at Sporting Kansas City and altercation with a fan after game, MLS Players Union raised questions about the security at Children’s Mercy Park.
"We are disappointed with the league's handling of the situation involving the Kansas City fans
and Tim Howard. Following the incidents, which involved a verbal exchange with a fan, as well as an altercation after the game, Tim acknowledged his culpability and responsibility for his
role. However, he is the only one involved to do so. Although the Players Union and Tim acknowledge that his conduct was inappropriate, there is further context that should not be lost."
Video posted on Twitter shows Howard exchanging expletives with fans in stands late in the match. Video of the postgame
altercation is not available but a source told ESPN FC
that Howard grabbed a Sporting Kansas City fan by the arm as he and other players were leaving the field.
"MLS has a detailed Fan Code of Conduct in place under which fans are expected to
be respectful to each other and to players," the Union added, "and are prohibited from engaging in disorderly behavior, including obscene or abusive language. The fans involved repeatedly, routinely
and openly violated that Code of Conduct, without any repercussions. It is thus not surprising that there was a reaction from the player."
As for the postgame incident, the union
stated, "The security provided by the league and Sporting Kansas City was wholly inadequate to protect players and fans. As Tim was attempting to leave the field, a fan with alcohol in hand was able
to come within two feet of him on field level and aggressively scream obscenities in his face. That is unacceptable behavior anywhere and is not something that players, or anyone, should be
subjected to in their workplace. Tim takes responsibility for his actions, but MLS needs to do the same, and send a clear message that it is committed to creating a safe experience not only for its
fans, but for its players too."
Sporting KC management took exception to the notion that security was inadequate.
“We put safety first and foremost at Children’s
Mercy Park,” Sporting KC president Jake Reid told the Kansas City Star. “If we ever felt at any
time that safety was a concern, we would have changed a policy or an action a long time ago. But in response to this, will we look at all the things we do? Absolutely. But I can tell you it’s
something we’ve always taken very seriously. We’re one of five clubs that have a dedicated security team on staff full-time. That should tell you the level of seriousness we take with this
stuff at the stadium.”
The Rapids had tried to put the matter behind them.
“While this is out of character for Tim, we do not condone these actions,” the
Rapids said in a statement. “We accept the league’s decision and look forward to moving past this. The incidents that took place during our match at Sporting Kansas City last weekend do
not represent the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club or Tim’s character and beliefs, on and off the pitch.”
The Howard incident was the second time last week the MLS Players Union
stepped in on the side of one of its members. It successfully got the suspension of Montreal defender Wandrille Lefevre overturned.