Joshua Griffith displays his anti-fascist, anti-racist sign at the Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York City FC game in BC Place Stadium on Aug. 31. Photo: Joshua Griffith/Twitter

Whitecaps reverse BC fan’s three-game ban for anti-fascist sign

Joshua Griffith hopes team can learn something from controversy

When the Vancouver Whitecaps work on improving their play on the soccer field, a Campbell River fan hopes the team will work on its off-field play as well.

Joshua Griffith was at the centre of another storm of controversy involving the Major League Soccer franchise. On Thursday Griffith was told he was banned from attending the last three games of the Whitecaps’ season after he displayed an anti-fascist and anti-racist sign at a recent game at B.C. Place against New York City FC on Aug. 31.

The sign said “#AUnitedFront Against Racism, Against Fascism” on one side and showed the Iron Front symbol on the other. When he brought it to the stadium, security staff went through his bags like they always do and nobody said anything. It wasn’t until the end of the game with five minutes left to go that somebody came up to him and told him that the sign contravened team and league policy and they hadn’t been approved. All signs have to be approved by the team but Griffith said he’s never had that done for any of his signs.

On Thursday, Griffith tweeted about his ban after receiving a phone call from a Whitecaps representative informing him of it. Since that tweet went out, Griffith’s phone “hasn’t stopped ringing” with calls from various media outlets.

Shortly after the story got out, Griffith received another call from the team saying he wasn’t supposed to get a ban but instead was only supposed to get a warning. There had been an internal “communication error.”

Griffith hopes the team learns from that error.

“I’d like to see them improve what they’re doing going forward,” Griffith said, “and maybe, you know, learn from their mistake, get some processes in place.”

For example, Griffith doesn’t understand why the three-game ban came in the form of a phone call from a team representative. He would have thought something like that would come in a formal letter on team letterhead either mailed or emailed to him.

“Hopefully, they can improve on how they do things in the future,” Griffith said.

The team was at the centre of controversy earlier in the season after a former player, Ciara McCormak, wrote a blog speaking out about abusive behaviour by a former coach with the Whitecaps women’s team in 2007 and 2008, Bob Birarda. The lack of action or acknowledgement by the current team lead to the team’s supporters groups, Southsiders and Curva Collective, staging in-game walkouts to demand action. That eventually lead to the team meeting with players affected, issuing an apology and engaging an outside consultant to review the actions taken in 2008.

The league and the team have a policy of not allowing “political” signs to be displayed at MLS games. That policy has put the league and teams at odds with supporters who have taken to displaying messages against fascism and racism in other stadiums across the league. The issue has been particularly focused on the Pacific Northwest where supporters groups in Portland have been prominent on this issue.

A specific symbol that supporters have been using has been at the centre of the controversy. It’s the Iron Front symbol which originated with opponents to the Nazis in the 1930s in Germany. Because it was associated with a specific political movement in the 1930s, MLS has deemed it as a political symbol which contravenes league sign policy.

Griffith always brings signs to the Whitecaps games. He has travelled from the Island to home games at Vancouver’s BC Place stadium eight times this year and even went to watch the Whitecaps play Portland in the Oregon city. He’s only recently become a Whitecaps fan, becoming a supporter about three years ago.

The timing of the controversy over the sign is unfortunate because Griffith was considering buying season’s tickets and had phoned the team enquiring about them. In fact, when he received a call from the team on Thursday and saw the team’s number on call display, he thought it was about his season ticket request. Instead, it was to be informed about the three-game ban.

Many Whitecaps fans have taken to social media forums to talk about not renewing their season tickets because the team has been playing so poorly – they currently sit in last place in MLS’ western division. Particularly galling is the perceived lack of spending of a windfall the team received from the development and selling of Canadian soccer phenom Alphonso Davies to German soccer giants FC Bayern Munich for what could be as much as $22 million. Fans had hoped to see that money put into acquiring big name players like rival teams across MLS – particularly Canadian rival Toronto – have done in order to develop a winning team.

Griffith has taken signs to every game he’s been to. They’re usually of the “Go Whitecaps” variety or cheering on certain players.

But he decided to start bringing a sign to show his support for the anti-fascist and anti-racist positions that other supporters groups in the league have been taking.

“I think it’s an important message to send,” Griffith said.

He even suggested the team could do something to send a similar message after this controversy. Ironically, MLS and the Whitecaps both have official anti-racism campaigns and Griffith sent the Whitecaps an email suggesting they could do something to affirm its support for those kinds of messages after this recent controversy. A sign of its own on the field or something like that.

“Take a negative situation and use it to send a positive message,” Griffith said.

The team has extended an apology to Griffith and he’s willing to put the controversy behind him.

RELATED: Last-place Whitecaps fall 3-1 to New York City FC

RELATED: Former Whitecaps player ‘optimistic’ after meeting about alleged harassment


@AlstrT
editor@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Hope firefighter receives commendation for 50 years of service

Fred Robinson began his career on Vancouver Island, still working hard

Harrison Festival releases line-up for fall season

The 31st annual Season of Performing Arts will be kicking off Oct. 18

Man charged with stealing Chief Dan George sculpture from Abbotsford school

Piece turned up in Mission pawn shop after Chilliwack artist noticed it missing this summer

New real-time location technology coming soon to Fraser Valley buses

Waiting riders will be able to see location of their bus using their phones

Supernatural fundraiser coming to Kilby this October

The Vancouver Supernatural Group will be investigating paranormal activity at the historic site

VIDEO: Agassiz Fall Fair celebrates 115 years of fair fun

From 4H shows to pie eating contests, the annual fair brought its best to the community this year

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

Chilliwack’s Belle Voci brings three-day a cappella festival to Fraser Valley

Singers will learn from two of Lower Mainland’s best music leaders at Belle Voci A Cappella Festival

Most Read