SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders’ largest supporters group, ECS, walked out of Sunday’s match at halftime shortly after capo Kyle Shields and another ECS member were removed for waving the Iron Front flag. Shields had been waving a large green and black Iron Front flag during much of the first half and throughout halftime.
They just kicked out the head of gameday ops, made @WeAreECS take down the iron front symbols which are up to support inclusion for our players from all over the world. This is a sad moment. #SoundersMatchday#AUnitedFront pic.twitter.com/7Ljomh2vzB— Emily Cummings (@emilyrcummings) September 15, 2019
The two main sections in which ECS sits were almost completely empty with only a scattering of fans in the third section. The change in atmosphere was immediately noticeable for anyone inside the stadium.
“I understand the conflict, you know, and I don’t want that to affect the performance of the team,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the game. “Look I’m an ECS member, I’m a guy that fights for the team, there’s a lot of guys here that, this is an issue that I hope that both sides can find a solution, because I don’t like to see that end of the stadium empty. I think we have the greatest fans, the best fan support, maybe not numerically because of Atlanta, but this club is the relationship between the fans and the players, and I don’t want that to stop.”
In a series of tweets, Shields had this to say about the action:
For all of the love we show players, they come and go. Our manager understands, calling himself a steward. Owners come and go. What remains? The club & us, the supporters. It’s our duty to make sure our club is what we want it to be, what they claim to be, and what they should be— We Are Kyle (@Shieldk2) September 16, 2019
Late Monday, ECS confirmed no fans received bans due to Sunday’s actions.
Supporters around MLS have been protesting the league’s ban of the Iron Front symbol for several weeks, most notably when ECS, Gorilla FC and the Timbers Army remained silent for the first 33 minutes of the Timbers-Sounders match on Aug. 23. Those three groups as well as representatives from the Independent Supporters Council are scheduled to meet with MLS officials on Sept. 19 in Las Vegas after the Leagues Cup final. In addition to demanding that the league rescind the ban on the Iron Front symbol, the groups are also calling for the term “political” to be removed from the fan code of conduct and for an international group of experts to assist the league in crafting a new code of conduct.
The Sounders apparently helped broker that meeting and expressed optimism that a positive outcome is possible.
“This is a super complicated landscape to be in,” Sounders vice president of business operations Taylor Graham told reporters following Sunday’s game. “But the reality of the situation is that there’s really good people committed to having productive dialogue and moving this forward. Next week is an opportunity to take some steps.”
In the meantime, an ECS spokesperson said the group intends to resume normal activities for Wednesday’s game against FC Dallas.
*This story was originally published on Sept. 15 and updated on Sept. 16.