MLS' Politics-Free Code of Conduct Meets Resistance

Courtney Cameron Headshot

A Major League Soccer Policy that bans political demonstrations at matches — including flying the Iron Front symbol, which has become associated with the antifa movement — is a compromise that’s leaving everybody mad.

A board of directors statement from the Portland’s 107 Independent Supporters Trust read, “With the recent rise in targeted attacks against so many groups — LBTGQ+, immigrants, women, religious groups, and more — and the presence of fascists in our stadiums, this symbol represents our firm stance of combating hatred in soccer, our communities, and our world.”

While supporters maintain that the Iron Front symbol represents broad advocation for human rights and not a political stance, the league felt its presence inside its stadiums still presented a safety issue.

MLS’s recently updated fan code of conduct goes beyond similar policies held by other top-five U.S. professional leagues to expressly ban political signage and to specifically target racist, homophobic, xenophobic and sexist language and behavior, according to the Associated Press.

MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told the Press that all of the league’s teams collaborated on the policy, saying, “I think it was the belief of the league and the clubs that fans are at our games to enjoy the game and that there is a place for third-party political organizations or groups to express their views, but that place isn’t within our stadiums.”

He went on to clarify that — despite its inclusion in the no-politics policy — the league doesn't equate human rights supporters with other extremist groups, saying, “We unequivocally condemn groups that engage in hateful actions and speech. Through our commitment to Soccer for All, it is very clear where the league stands on supporting diversity and inclusion.

“We also recognize the importance of these values to our fans, but we don’t believe our venues are the appropriate place for signage that promotes any kind of third-party political organization or group, regardless of whether we agree with the tenets of that organization.”

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