MLS lifts ban on 'Iron Front' signage for rest of 2019 season

Outside of perhaps Seattle and Portland, few MLS fans had probably even heard of the Iron Front or seen its symbol before this season.

It became the center of a dispute between fans in several markets and the league over political activism in stadiums. The dispute led to expulsions and stadium bans and statements by fans to withdraw their support.

That dispute was diffused on Tuesday night when MLS announced it was lifting the ban on the Iron Front symbol on flags or banners for the rest of the 2019 season.

The move followed talks between MLS executives and leaders of the Independent Supporters Council representing fan groups around the league and supporter groups for the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders on Thursday in Las Vegas and a conference call on Tuesday.

The dispute centered around how MLS and supporters view the emblem of the Iron Front, an anti-Nazi paramilitary organization in Germany in the early 1930s. It features three arrows pointing downward.

Fans consider the symbol an expression of anti-fascism and anti-racism. The league's position has been that the Iron Front emblem is political -- and therefore banned it -- because it has been co-opted by Antifa, the collection of militant protest groups opposed to fascism and other extreme right-wing ideology.

It only became an issue in 2019 when MLS updated its Fan Code of Conduct to ban "political" signs. The ban on the display of Iron Front flags or banners  led to protests, ejections and more protests and walkouts in Portland and Seattle, two centers of political activism, but also at other MLS venues.

Supporters groups wanted MLS to only not rescind the ban on flying the Iron Front flags and banners but remove the word “political” from its  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.

MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement released on Tuesday evening that the league would form a working group to re-examine the Fan Code of Conduct and suspend the "Iron Front" ban while that work took place.

“This working group will include representatives from the league office and clubs and work collaboratively with leaders of club supporter groups and a cross-section of diversity and inclusion experts,” Abbott said.

From the supporters' side came a statement that it acknowledged "the league’s willingness to discuss these complex issues, as well as the league’s affirmation of its longtime opposition to racism, fascism, white supremacy, white nationalism and homophobia. We appreciate Major League Soccer’s willingness to engage, listen, and learn. We look forward to continuing the dialogue, moving away from direct action in the stands on this issue, and instead focusing our energy on making progress around the table.”

13 comments about "MLS lifts ban on 'Iron Front' signage for rest of 2019 season".
  1. Wooden Ships, September 25, 2019 at 10:29 a.m.

    There’s leadership for you. 

  2. Chris Bartels, September 25, 2019 at 1:10 p.m.

    Very disappointing. I fear this is going to damage the MLS brand.

  3. John Soares, September 25, 2019 at 1:22 p.m.

    Does this apply only to this banner?
    How can it?
    Or does it mean banners are now allowed?
    How can one person's "expression" be more legal than another.
    If so, did  the MLS just open Pandora's box???

  4. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2019 at 2:59 p.m.

    There must be something in the water out there in the Northwest.....

  5. Hugh T, September 25, 2019 at 3:29 p.m.

    MLS gave in to petulance.  How embarrassing.

  6. Mario Cesarone, September 25, 2019 at 3:37 p.m.

    Am I wrong or was this the badge of the German Communist party to show their opposition to the German Nationalist Party (Nazis).  Two groups of 'wonderful' people.

  7. R2 Dad replied, September 26, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.

    According to wiki, the original Iron Front opposed both groups:

    The current group is made up of anarchists, who traditionally have worn black masks to hide their identities and thus avoid the repercussions of their violent behavior:

    Once the black masks are put on, the violence always follows. This has been happening in Berkeley for 20 years, and now the pacific northwest. Their MO is only possible because the mayors in these ciites have instructed their police forces not to detain people with masks, which is a break from common sense.

    Now MLS has decided to allow politicial flags in stadia. It's a risk, because it's all fine until it's not.
    No one is wearing masks in MLS stadiums, but it's only a matter of time before opposition flags/banners arrive.

  8. Steve Wilson, September 25, 2019 at 3:39 p.m.

    Are Nazi's and fascist a real probelm in this country? Have you seen them shutting down streets or harrassing people? Good thing they got rid of that racist Betsy Ross flag in MLS. 

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, September 26, 2019 at 7:33 a.m.

    A person's view on that question depends on their personal experience. There are US citizens who have been harrassed and had their streets shut down. And worse things.

    I am living the American Dream. Discrimination and inequality are very real for those who are victimized. I have been fortunate and wish we had a more perfect world.

  10. John Soares, September 25, 2019 at 3:42 p.m.

    Right MC, there were good people on both sides....
    Just kidding.
    But, here we go talking politics instead of soccer.

  11. John Soares, September 25, 2019 at 3:42 p.m.

    Right MC, there were good people on both sides....
    Just kidding.
    But, here we go talking politics instead of soccer.

  12. John Soares, September 25, 2019 at 3:43 p.m.

    Frank, water in the northwest is pretty clean.
    Decision was made in Vegas:)

  13. Goal Goal, September 25, 2019 at 10:32 p.m.

    One thing I like about MLS.  They never break.  Bend maybe but never break.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications