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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey city council moving to virtual meetings

For public hearings, people can register to speak via telephone

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock, Delta and beyond

APRIL 4: Two people in Delta fined for trying to re-sell N95 masks

33-storey highrise proposal coming to Surrey council, first of three phases

Second and third phases include 36-storey and 31-storey towers

Surrey veteran feels pinch from COVID-19 after cancelled surgery

Caught between two countries, and low income, soldier feels he’s been forgotten

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Exercises move online with YMCA’s new nationwide virtual workout program

YThrive Home offers dozens of free workout videos for people during COVID-19 self-isolation period

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution; two other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, says correctional officer

B.C. community service provider hosts friendly art competition for youth

Theme for Pacific Community Resources contest is ‘finding the silver lining in difficult times’

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

TransLink to reduce service on some bus routes, SeaBus, West Coast Express

Changes start April 6 ‘due to low ridership and financial pressures’ amid COVID-19

Most Read