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‘We’re going to be the Columbus Crew forever’; ownership, fans reach much-needed compromise

The Crew will remain the Crew after backlash from fans and a quick pivot by ownership.

The Columbus Crew proved in 2020 what a force the team could be on the field, winning the club’s second MLS Cup in December. Just over five months later, the Crew’s supporters showed, yet again, that they are not to be messed with either and the Crew ownership group showed an important willingness to work with fans going forward.

And “The Crew” is exactly the name for Columbus’ soccer club. This comes after ownership announced a rebrand on Monday, May 10 that dropped “The Crew” from the team’s official name while rolling out a new logo. But after backlash from the fans over the change and how the club went about rebranding, the Black & Gold and the supporters announced in a joint statement a week later plans to return “The Crew” to the team’s logo and official name, as well as adding “96” to the crest in place of a triangle in the bottom right-hand corner.

Once again, Crew fans demonstrate exactly what they are capable of when their backs are against the wall. Although in a very different situation, these supporters again Saved the Crew, having once created a movement that helped keep the team in Columbus after former ownership announced a relocation attempt in 2017.

This began in a meeting that took place on Friday, May 7 prior to the rebrand announcement that, as reported by multiple outlets, did not go well. Members of the Nordecke leadership board, those that help run the team’s supporters’ section, were shown the rebranded logo and name and responded with anger and frustration. These fans fought to save “The Crew,” not Columbus SC and were previously told this ownership group would work with them as “stewards of the club.” Instead, some of the Black & Gold’s most loyal supporters were blindsided by a major change to their club just days before it was scheduled to be announced.

After the rebrand plans leaked out over the weekend and ownership began to see the backlash, a second, less publicized, video conference meeting took place on May 10 between members of the Nordecke board on their lunch breaks and the Crew’s front office and ownership. Once again, supporters laid out their disappointment with not being a part of this rebranding process, as well as other frustrations over the last two-plus years.

This meeting did not change anything, as the rebrand was announced essentially as planned and the Nordecke put out a statement saying the group does not support the changes to the team. Following the success of #SaveTheCrew, a new hashtag began circulating on social media: #WeAreTheCrew.

For the last week, the new “Columbus SC” name and Block C logo were used on the team’s broadcast for two matches and plastered around town. Fans on social media vowed to not purchase any merchandise with a logo and name they felt were unnecessarily changed from one that became known across the globe due to a movement they organically created. There was nothing organic about “Columbus SC” or a C in a flag.

As the supporters did from 2017 until the Haslam and Edwards families officially purchased the Crew in 2019, voices were heard and thoughts were made loud and clear. On Monday, Black & Gold ownership again held an in-person meeting with supporters. There, they were presented with ideas for a compromised new logo with the message: “We’re going to be the Columbus Crew and we’re going to be the Columbus Crew forever.”

This second meeting, as described to Massive Report, revealed that ownership understood this approach to rebranding without widespread fan involvement was a mistake for a club that owes its existence to the supporters. Those in attendance were presented with potential plans for the future, including the return of the gold kit, which disappeared in 2021. Ownership assured the fans that they heard them “loud and clear” and want to work in conjunction with the supporters to be the best ownership group possible going forward.

“This was a fantastic meeting,” Jeff Barger, communications director for the Nordecke, said in a video released by the team. “Honestly, coming into this, everybody knew what they hoped to get out of it and the thing that I can say is that ownership was incredibly understanding, compassionate, responsive and genuine. They heard our voice. They heard what the fans and the supporters community were looking for and they delivered on it.”

In addition, the Crew’s ownership group agreed to have an official supporters liaison, who will work as a go-between from the front office to fans.

While this situation ultimately came to a reasonable settlement with both sides walking away happy, there could have been a much darker resolution. Both sides could have dug their heels in the ground and refused to meet again or compromise. The ownership group could have said, “tough luck, enjoy our rebrand,” and the supporters could have continued with threats, protests and boycotts.

Instead, cooler heads prevailed. The two sides deserve credit for setting aside any ill-will to come to a resolution that benefits the club as a whole, which is really the most important part.

And now the Crew, as it shall be known, and the fans can work together in the future to build the club in their image, not just one side’s or the other’s.

“The ownership group’s willingness and desire to meet with supporters, to meet with the fan community and the community and to engage regularly and more frequently is really setting itself apart,” Barger said, “from not just the rest of MLS but sports in the United States. It’s a huge commitment, it’s one they’re serious about and I think it’s going to help us chart a path forward together that is what we’ve always hoped as Crew fans and Crew supporters. It’s the direction that we always wanted to go and now we’re going to get a real shot at going there.”