Major League Soccer officials released their updated MLS Fan Code of Conduct on Tuesday ahead of the 2020 season, which now bans abusive or discriminatory signs and language at league events.
The changes follow consultation with the Independent Supporters Council, social justice organizations, and independent fan groups like Portland’s Timbers Army, Emerald City Supporters and Gorilla FC.
According to MLS, the revisions prohibit:
- Displaying signs, symbols, images, using language or making gestures that are threatening, abusive, or discriminatory, including on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, ability, and/or sexual orientation.
- Displaying signs, symbols or images for commercial purposes or for electioneering, campaigning or advocating for or against any candidate, political party, legislative issue, or government action.
ISC president Bailey Brown said the new language is a positive step in building a relationship between the league and fans.
“We want to thank the MLS officials for consulting with the ISC in developing this language for 2020 and beyond, and we’re looking forward to continuing our dialogue on the interactions between fans, teams, players, and the league,” Brown said in a statement.
While the revisions ban some political signs, MLS will continue to allow fans to fly the Iron Front flag, an anti-fascist symbol the league had previously banned.
MLS officials decided to allow the Iron Front flag last fall after fans and advocacy groups, who flew the symbol for years at Timbers matches, argued the symbol is inclusive.
The Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, worked with MLS toward building the new code of conduct. CAIR-Oregon spokesperson Zakir Khan said that the changes make MLS stadiums a more inclusive environment for marginalized groups.
“For us, it was really critical to develop stadiums and a culture within Major League Soccer that was as inclusive as possible, and to protect symbols that really represent that inclusivity,” Khan said.
He said he hopes other professional sports organizations follow the league’s example.
“For a professional sports league to have that mentality where they’re willing to learn — from both outside entities as well as their supporters’ groups — that’s really tremendous,” Khan said.
MLS said the Fan Code of Conduct still continues to prohibit conduct that is unruly, disruptive, threatening or violent in nature.
The Portland Timbers have two more preseason games at Providence Park on Wednesday, Feb. 19 against Minnesota United FC and Saturday, Feb. 22 against New England Revolution. The Timbers will kick off the 2020 season at home facing Minnesota United FC again on Sunday, March 1.