Minnesota United was playing in the first half of its Major League Soccer match against Real Salt Lake on Sunday at Allianz Field when political statements were made in the South stand of the St. Paul stadium.
In the 33rd minute of the game, fans in those sections started to sing the Italian anti-fascist resistance song “Bella Ciao,” and a subset of the group displayed images for the Iron Front, three downward arrows that represented an affront to Nazi Germany.
These physical displays in banners and flags are against the MLS code of conduct and are subject to ejection from the league’s stadiums.
A Minnesota United spokesman said one individual was removed from the stadium because of Iron Front issues related to the league’s code.
However, the Red Loons, a politically left-leaning supporters group, estimated 10 to 15 fans were escorted out of the stadium for this reason and said others walked out with them. A Red Loons spokesperson said “everyone was respectful to Allianz staff throughout.”
Nora Radtke of Minneapolis was escorted out Allianz Field’s southwest gate at halftime; she was wearing a large Iron Front banner made into a sort of dress. One other fan in a Iron Front shirt was seen with stadium security going toward the exit.
Red Loons member and protest organizer Bennett Hartz walked out with Radtke and took issue with a blanket rule on no political messages.
“I understand you can’t fly (Elizabeth) Warren 2020 or a (President) Trump flag, but saying no politics, then we shouldn’t sing the national anthem, those are politics,” Hartz told the Pioneer Press. “Before (gay) Pride games … it was something people would get discriminated for and politicized.”
This is part of a larger story playing out across MLS. Portland has been an epicenter as members of the Timbers Army have fought against the ban on political messages and members have been suspended from games at Providence Park. They also took issue with a military ceremony before a recent game.
MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott will meet with Independent Supporters Council representatives to discuss this issue in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Last week, the Wonderwall, the umbrella group of Loons supporters, met with club officials to clarify the club’s role in the political messaging issue. Two fans were asked to cover the Iron Front images on their clothing during an on-field pregame ceremony for the Loons’ Sept. 7 friendly against Mexican club Pachuca; they were free to wear them afterward, the club said. The Wonderwall construed this to mean all individual clothing with Iron Front images were not allowed.
The club told fans they can wear the images individually, but not on the field for festivities, nor join together in their clothing to make a larger image nor be threatening to other groups.
On Sunday, there was at least one group coming together for a larger Iron Front statement as well as a large flag. One fan told the Pioneer Press he flew an Iron Front flag without an issue from the club for most of the match.
Hartz, a fan since the club switched its name to United in 2013, said he was part of last week’s meeting with United officials. “We love the team and understand they have to enforce the rules,” said Hartz said. “Our gripe is not with the club.”
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