On Saturday, the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake ended their match in a 0-0 draw. Regardless of the scoreline, it was off the field that grabbed the attention of most Black & Gold supporters, and not for anything soccer related.
The day prior, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and moved decision-making power to the states when it comes to banning or allowing patients to have abortions. During the match at Salt Lake, supporters became aware that Columbus’ front office would not make a statement about Friday’s decision which sent a ripple effect through the community.
Initially, it was players that entered the conversation. Black & Gold winger Derrick Etienne Jr. showed his support by sharing tweets defending a woman’s right to choose. On Crew 2 center back Philip Quinton did the same through his own long-form statement.
Team-wise, Major League Soccer clubs were slow to respond with only the Portland Timbers, Orlando City SC and Houston Dynamo sharing their support Friday and over half of the league is still silent as of this publishing. The league itself has avoided any mention whatsoever while the National Women’s Soccer League and U.S. Soccer spoke against Friday’s court decision.
For Columbus, it was the Crew’s supporters’ group, the Nordecke, who reached out to the team to share a unified message. The club told Nordecke leadership that due to the message’s political nature, and people in the front office or within the fanbase potentially agreeing with the decision, the organization wouldn’t be sharing a message either way.
From this lackluster response were responses by supporters themselves. Multiple season ticket holders publicly shared their intent to not renew season tickets, the Nordecke organized a boycott of in-stadium beer sales (instead urging supporters to use that money to donate to Women Have Options Ohio) and supporter leadership itself lost a key figure when Nordecke Community Director Jo Rodgers stepped down from her post. Also, stadium protests are in the works, including a potential match walkout against the Philadelphia Union on July 3.
This lack of a message and an indifference to the will of a large chunk of supporters (63 percent of Americans supported Row v. Wade in a 2018 independent poll) including many who volunteer and support the Crew as a means of loving their community, comes with questions.
The first, and most obvious, is can a team distance itself politically? Removing politics is something the Haslam and Edwards families, who are the investor-operators of the Crew, don’t do themselves. In the last United States election cycle, the Haslam family gave close to $1 million to politicians who’ve voted and supported Supreme Court justices who made Friday’s decision, as discussed in more detail on the latest episode of the Massive Report podcast, including the implications of those donations and their removal of any chance of staying apolitical.
It’s a second question that challenges even more than those directly impacted by Friday’s court findings. What happens if issues mentioned within the Supreme Court’s findings come to fruition? Justice Clarence Thomas referenced multiple previous court decisions that he felt required another look and potential reversal. Included in this is the United States allowing same-sex marriages or same-sex relationships overall.
In Friday’s court findings, both of those were recommended as future cases for review with the underlying goal of allowing states to take charge. With that authority, states like Ohio could completely halt same-sex marriages and remove rights that people worked decades to put into place.
If that happens down the road, what would the Haslam and Edwards families say in response? Would their message be one of silence yet again?
On June 18, inside a stadium funded with Haslam family money, the Nordecke lifted a tifo supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. Does that support end if the United States’ highest court allows Ohio politicians to control who can marry whom?
A final question is something that a soccer article can’t assist. Can a supporter support a team financially that uses profits in political arenas where they don’t agree?
In March, Massive Report talked about the Haslam family’s signing of National Football League player DeShaun Watson, a football player who recently settled 20 of 24 civil cases of abuse allegations against himself. In it were questions supporters needed to ask about the potential future money spent by the Haslam family that impacts the Crew. That time looks like it’s right now.