LAFC's stoppage-time winner against Sporting Kansas City and Colorado's thrilling 3-3 draw in the snow against Portland should have stolen most of the headlines this weekend as Major League Soccer kicked off its 24th season.
Instead, the new campaign began with a dark cloud hanging over New York City, home to the league's headquarters and one of its highest-profile teams.
Specifically, a dark cloud of violent ideological extremism that has been allowed to metastasize within certain elements of the supporter culture around New York City FC, as reported in stories recently published in The Athletic and The Huffington Post.
Here's what New York soccer fans are doing about the skinheads in section 236. https://t.co/mDoymfkud2— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPostPol) March 1, 2019
I am a season ticket holder for NYCFC and covered the team for the first 3.5 years of its existence dating back to 2014, and in full disclosure, I'm acquainted with the authors of the aforementioned reports.
But, I'm not here to say even one damn word about the problems that have arisen in New York that the franchise has utterly refused to address head-on.
No, I'm here to rake MLS Commissioner Don Garber over the coals for what he said Sunday in reference to this freaking fascist powder keg.
Halftime reading:— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) March 4, 2019
In a press scrum tonight at Audi Field, Don Garber was asked (by me) about the reports on (and evidence of) white supremacist fans in New York City FC supporters' clubs, and the efforts (and perception of a lack of them) to kick those fans out.
His remarks: pic.twitter.com/WNXOA8vWQi
Wow. He did the "fine people on both sides" thing. He really did it.
Devotees will note that Garber, who has been MLS Commissioner since 1999, was previously a Senior Vice President for the NFL. Given the demographics of gridiron football fandom -- it's a violent game that appeals to our basest and most feverishly warlike desires, so do the math -- Garber would seem to be the kind of guy to be extra-careful about alienating any meaningful portion of the consumer base.
MLS teams ban people from their stadium for setting off smoke bombs *in the parking lot* but being a literal Nazi is apparently not punishable bad behavior. Neat.— Kimberly McCauley (@lgbtqfc) March 4, 2019
How hard is it to denounce white supremacy, antisemitism, LGBT-phobia, Islamophobia, and general tribalistic violence, Don? This is the kind of sneeringly cynical both-sides-ism that permits the cancer to spread.
Consider the precedent set: Don Garber has no problem with permitting the pro-genocide set to enter MLS stadiums as long as they don't attack anyone while inside. (Bloodshed on the streets of Manhattan, say, would be permitted? Is that It?)
If this is an unfair framing of his statement to Jonathan Tannenwald, he's free to clarify otherwise as part of a full-throated denunciation of violent extremism.
These are the hottest related topics on Google, per @GoogleTrends, when searching "NYCFC."— Dunn Garber (@RealFakeSamDunn) March 4, 2019
At left is over the past day. At right is the past week.@NYCFC/@NYCFCHelp are losing the narrative, and @thesoccerdon is out to lunch. pic.twitter.com/cpuRS7QCtf
As an unapologetic MLS fan who wants to see the league continue to enhance its footprint, I'm pretty demoralized about the fact that I even felt the need to write this. Infighting among fans is rarely productive; the buck has to stop with the franchises themselves.
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