With another confrontation between supporters of Antifa and the Proud Boys expected on the streets of Portland, Ore., next weekend, two pro soccer teams in the Pacific Northwest are trying to help keep the focus on the game instead of politics at their home matches.
According to the Associated Press, Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders have each banned the “Iron Front” symbol used by Antifa supporters from being displayed by fans inside the teams’ stadiums.
MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott explained the reasoning behind the league’s action.
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“I think it was the belief of the league and the clubs that fans are at our games to enjoy the game,” Abbott told the AP, “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.”
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The symbol – composed of three arrows pointing downward and to the left – has been adopted by some Antifa supporters. It was used in the 1930s by a German group that opposed the Nazis, according to the AP.
In one variation, the three arrows are replaced by three axes – suggesting support for the Timbers as well.
Soccer fans, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, are more inclined to express political views at games than fans of other sports, according to the report.
On social media, soccer fans who support Antifa were not happy about Major League Soccer’s decision.
Past clashes in Portland between supporters of Antifa and the Proud Boys have erupted into violence – including at attack on conservative writer Andy Ngo.
Having faced criticism for the city’s handling of past confrontations, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and police Chief Danielle Outlaw last week said both political groups should expect to face a strong police presence this coming Saturday.
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Wheeler issued a warning to anyone, on either side, looking to instigate violence.
“We don’t want you,” Wheeler said, according to OregonLive.com. “But if you do come, we will be ready for you.”
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Added Outlaw: “Don’t come. We don’t want you here. I don’t care what side you’re on.”
The Timbers have a home game scheduled against Atlanta United on Aug. 18, the day after the expected Proud Boys-Antifa showdown, and another Aug. 23, against the Seattle. The Sounders won’t play at home again until Sept. 1, against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.