JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Fringe Sounders fans stage walkout in support of Antifa thugs

Sep 16, 2019, 5:45 AM

After fans were prohibited from flying a banned Antifa flag during this weekend’s Sounders game, a number of supporters walked out of CenturyLink Field in protest. It’s the latest stunt that has caused significant criticism of an independent supporters group.

After halftime, Sounders and stadium officials apparently intervened, seeking to enforce the ban on the Iron Front flag. One fan started waving it in the 33rd minute and it continued until the half. Other fans were also waving their own Iron Front signs.

At some point at the end of halftime, while Sounders and stadium staff intervened, a large group of fans from independent fan club Emerald City Supporters (ECS) left in protest.

This was a coordinated move to test the front office, part of a weekend of similar actions across Major League Soccer.

Once used to symbolize a fight against actual Nazis, the flag has since been co-opted by Antifa thugs claiming they’re now the ones fighting Nazis. One fan even equated himself to a World War II veteran.

I’ve been previously told by insiders that the Sounders are not expected to defy the MLS on the ban on this particular image because it’s used to promote and justify violence. That’s a step too far for this deeply Progressive front office.

But these fans aren’t simply against “fascism” (99.99 percent of the globe is against fascism). These are supporters of the dangerous Antifa movement. They stand with a group of violent thugs that view all Republicans and cops as Nazis and fascists, turning their movement into a fringe club of delusional reactionaries. It is why MLS is clamping down on the expression in-stadiums. They’ve redefined “fascism” to fit their political views and to position themselves as heroes or martyrs fighting for a bigger cause. They’re neither heroes nor martyrs; they’re ideological bigots.

If you stand in their way, they aim to bully you into submission, calling you a Nazi sympathizer. Indeed, a fan posted video of Sounders and stadium staff getting ready to confront the Iron Front flag waver. He called the staff “fascists.”

Many fans in the stadium during the protest didn’t understand what was going on, and the television broadcast didn’t address the exodus. The crowd, on television, sounded about as loud as they normally do and there were limited shots of the vacated seats. I’m told that the traditional “boom boom clamp” performance was started by the in-stadium band, SoundWave, in place of the ECS supporters.

Not all fans were in the dark. Some who knew what was going on, were not happy with a selfish protest during a must-win game.

“From the perspective of being a retired vet, I’m a little disgusted by these people who think they’re making some sort of big sacrifice by walking out halfway through a soccer match,” one fan told me. “ECS wants to make this about fascism and racism and it’s not. It’s about a rule that MLS warned them about and they persisted to go against.”

“Keep soccer politics free,” another told me.

“I have a lot of fans that sit in my section … and they are angry and annoyed by [the protest],” a fan explained to me. “They don’t see the symbols as the positive that ECS claims they are. They see the negative history. If they want change, why is this the way they do it? Why not find a way to make change that doesn’t disrupt game or attack those who disagree with ECS antics?”

After the game, Sounders Coach Brian Schmetzer weighed in on the protests, saying he understood both sides of the arguments. But you could tell that it dampened his enthusiasm after the 4-2 crucial result over the New York Red Bulls.

“It’s a little bit of a sad day for me because I understand that there was some people leaving,” Schmetzer said during the post game press conference.

“I hope that both sides can find a solution because I don’t like to see that end of the stadium empty.”

I hope that fans simply keep their politics, fringe or otherwise, outside of the stadium. These activists only support an open expression of views they agree with. If you’re a fan club, focus on the team, not yourselves. And if these are political issues that can’t be ignored, then stop ignoring them. Stay away from games and fight the Nazis. How do you have time to go to a match if there are “literal Nazis” running around town?

And to the front office, which understandably doesn’t want to deal with this controversy, I hope you don’t give in. Twitter isn’t real life, so ignore the tweets. They don’t represent more than a small fraction of your fan base. There are plenty of fans of all political stripes who will happily fill the vacated seats. Why? Because they – we – care about the club and want to see the Sounders bring home another MLS cup. A small group of loud activists won’t be able to define what this club stands for.

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