Major League Soccer has published an updated Fan Code of
Conduct for the 2020 season, addressing concerns about the language in the 2019 fan code that led to protests.
MLS: 2020 Fan Code of Conduct
The revisions include a clarification about what conduct, signage and language is prohibited at league events:
"Displaying signs, symbols, images, using language or making gestures that are threatening, abusive, or discriminatory, including on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, ability, and/or sexual orientation."
"Displaying signs, symbols or images for commercial purposes or for electioneering, campaigning or advocating for or against any candidate, political party, legislative issue, or government action."
In 2019, the Iron Front symbol 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.
The dispute centered around the use of the word "political" that was introduced as part of the language in the 2019 Fan Code of Conduct. MLS's position was that the Iron Front emblem was "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.
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.
The dispute was diffused late in the 2019 season when MLS announced it was lifting the ban on the Iron Front symbol on flags or banners for the rest of the year. 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.
MLS officials and ISC leadership developed the new language for the 2020 Fan Code of Conduct. The ISC cited several human rights organizations as having consulted with MLS in exploring options for the language for the Code, including FARE Network, the Oregon Justice Research Center, CAIR-Oregon, the Western States Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“This new language is a significant, positive step in the relationship between the fans and the league they support,” said Bailey Brown, the ISC president, in a statement. “We want to thank the MLS officials for consulting with the ISC in developing this language for 2020 and beyond, and we’re looking forward to continuing our dialogue on the interactions between fans, teams, players, and the league.”