SEATTLE -- The president of Major League Soccer announced Tuesday that the league will allow fans to display the anti-fascist Iron Front flag at games for the rest of the season.
The decision comes after several Seattle Sounders FC fans, who were part of the Emerald City Supporters group, were ejected from a match for waving the flag.
By the end of the match, most of the fan section had been vacated after supporters walked out in protest of the ejection.
“It’s a little bit of a sad day for me because I understand there were some people leaving," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said after the July 21 game. “I support both sides, I see both sides. Somehow, we have to address this, and I still say we have the best fans."
MLS cited its policy of prohibiting any political statements during matches, but the Sounders organization stated that the team itself was supportive of the ejected fans, leading to a league-wide discussion on how to address the situation.
The Iron Front symbol of three arrows pointing downward was the banner of a German paramilitary group that resisted the Nazi Party. The flag has since been adopted by other movements such as Antifa in protest of alt-right extremism and white nationalism.
After meeting with the ejected fans and discussing with team managers, MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott reversed the league’s stance and announced the formation of a group comprised of representatives from fan groups and team leaders to handle similar situations moving forward.
“As part of this decision to update the Fan Code of Conduct for 2020, MLS has suspended the prohibition on the Iron Front imagery at matches for the balance of the 2019 season and Audi MLS Cup Playoffs while the working group conducts its analysis," the statement says in part.
The group will decide if the Iron Front symbol will be allowed to be displayed beyond the 2019 season.