PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Amid controversy over a symbol that some Portland Timbers fans want to display at games, two popular crowd routines of support were absent from Saturday night’s matchup.
The symbol, known as the “Iron Front”, has caused quite a stir among the Timbers Army. After some fans said they were banned for flying an Iron Front flag at a home game last weekend, leadership of the core fanbase protested Saturday by asking its members not to fly any flags at all.
“To pick that one, specific symbol as the one to say ‘we can’t fly this’ sends a dog whistle to the wrong people,” said Sheba Rawson, president of the 107-IST nonprofit that backs the Timbers Army.
The Army also deviated from its longstanding practice of deploying celebratory smoke following a Timbers goal.
The team beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1.
The Iron Front symbol is now at the heart of a debate between fans and Major League Soccer.
“Our fan code of conduct policy, which was coordinated with our clubs, prohibits signs that promote any political organization, including the Iron Front flag, which is associated with Antifa," the organization said in a statement to FOX 12 News.
But according to Rawson, the symbol has long stood for opposition of fascism and in support of human rights.
“To me, it sends a signal to folks who may not feel welcome, may be marginalized, may feel like there are people on the streets who are making them feel unsafe and afraid that you’re welcome here. That we stand for you,” Rawson said.
In May, the Timbers announced the Iron Front flag would be banned from games under the MLS’ updated code of conduct.
Now, it appears team officials are cracking down.
Abram Goldman-Armstrong, an outspoken anti-fascist and owner of Cider Riot!, said he received a letter this week barring him from three Timbers home games after he flew an Iron Front flag at the stadium last weekend.
“Part of being part of the Timbers Army, part of supporting the Timbers, is being opposed to fascism and racism,” Goldman-Armstrong told FOX 12. “And for them to ban someone for expressing these views, that I thought we all had in common – that’s a little disturbing.”
Rawson said the Army is now negotiating with the team’s Front Office in hopes the ban on the controversial symbol will be lifted and the word “political” dropped from the league’s Code of Conduct.
In the meantime, including at Saturday's game, fans showed they’ll be using other, uncommon methods to continue displaying the symbol – including on a variety of signs, banners and outfits.
The Timbers did not respond to requests for comment on the Army’s signs of protest Saturday.
In a previous statement, the team said they embrace expressions of anti-racism and anti-fascism and will continue to do so.
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