We stand against censorship in soccer
Across the country, in stadiums large and small, US Soccer and their cronies in leagues like MLS and USL have endeavored to co-opt supporter culture like what we’ve built here, while stripping away the passion, freedom and creativity that makes it unique.
Detroit City FC supporters, including the Northern Guard, fought off corporate soccer before when MLS tried to bring corporate soccer to Detroit. We will continue to fight against those who aim to sanitize the ardent, unrivaled, and yes, sometimes profane, culture we’ve built.
This fight is not unique to Detroit. Hypocrites at all levels of American soccer, from the federation and professional leagues, all the way down to amateur and youth programs, decry the words and imagery from supporters that they claim aren’t “family-friendly” while using pictures and video of those same supporters in their own marketing and advertising.
We recognize that some change is inevitable as our club grows and performs on a bigger stage, and have acted in good faith, only to have the goalposts moved time and time again. This is not just about our ability to swear, this is about our right to support the club we love in the way we see fit, in the way we’ve done for a decade, in the way that has helped establish Detroit City FC as the greatest grassroots soccer success story.
Why do we give a shit?
First, it has never been just about swearing.
This is not just about our ability to wear a shirt that says “fuck” on it or to paint a banner of a bear on a toilet.
The silence, lack of smoke and minimal amount of banners at Tuesday’s DCFC Open Cup match against Louisville is not a reaction to a single event. No. This was all done to call attention to a series of issues going back to long before we’d heard about “implied profanity” or met Ed Ducker.
Before we go further, if you haven’t already, take a moment to read DCFC co-owner Alex Wright’s statement from the other day. It provides some much-needed insight and clarity on the difficult position the club’s front office is in.
Now, when Detroit City FC first announced their move to USL Championship we were specifically told by the club that the “match day experience would not change.” Perhaps there’s some ambiguity in that statement and there was definitely a general belief among supporters that despite that claim, there would still be some change down the road.
The first change we saw was the implementation of waivers for anyone who wanted to pop smoke would sign. This caused plenty of tension, considering we’d safely deployed smoke for years with few, if any, problems and no need for legal liability waivers. Nonetheless, many supporters did what they were asked and signed them.
From there, we were told that we’d have to change the timing of our smoke deployment. Again, this is something we’ve policed on our own for years with no issues, but the league mandated that the timing must be changed. We were unhappy, but again, we did what we were asked.
The last-minute changes and directives from the USL and US Soccer kept coming. Whether it was what we can and cannot say in chants or what we can paint on banners, something that was OK one week suddenly wasn’t the next. We were constantly told that what we did was having a negative effect on our club by way of sanctions and fines from the league and the federation.
The bottom line, they knew that they could bring us to heel by threatening the one thing we truly loved.
To illustrate the absurdity of all of this, the latest rule deals with “implied profanity” which is purposely vague so they can declare anything they don’t like as a violation. Whether it be a picture of an “f-bomb” or a bear sitting on a toilet in the woods, the USSF’s rules are as incoherent as a Michigan Stars press release.
In the case of the pooping bear banner (which we can’t believe is a thing we have to say), they first demanded we remove the banner. Instead, we censored the word “shit” by adding a stamp that made it clear what was happening.
But censoring a swear word was not enough for the league and the federation. Apparently the implication that a bear defecates was too much, and they again demanded we remove the banner. Instead, we covered the bear, and the toilet, with a giant “censored” stamp.
The absurdity of this situation is not lost on us. The danger of directives against “implied” language is not lost on us, either. We believe they are trying to set a very dangerous precedent.
Perhaps the next thing that they infer to be offensive is a banner about trans-rights, or refugees, or any other social issue deemed to be too controversial for those who wish to use images of our passionate fans as a commodity.
This is why we fight back now. It’s not just about being able to say “fuck” on a scarf, “shit” on a banner or something truly offensive like “Oh*o” in a chant.
For us, this is all about being able to maintain the creativity and passion that has allowed us to build one of the greatest supporter communities in the world. It’s about being able to support in the way we see fit, to advocate for our club, our community and our friends and neighbors without fear of censorship.
What can you do?
Reach out to the US Soccer Federation (USSF), the USL Championship and Detroit City FC to let them know how you feel about this issue!