By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly
I had my first Timbers Army experience a few weeks ago and I have to say it was an absolute blast. But what struck me, aside from the fun I was having, was the feeling of being welcome no matter what shade of the rainbow I fell under. I walked in and, typical for me, asked a few obvious Timbers Army regulars where the queer section was located. Their response was, “Honey, it’s everywhere here.”
At last Sunday’s Timbers game, an Army section of 5,000 supporters continued to make it crystal clear where the Timbers, the Timbers Army, and Major League Soccer (MLS) stand on homophobia and intolerance. In support of the “Pride, Not Prejudice” cause going on this week, the Army used 4,500 colored flags to create an enormous rainbow with a sign in the middle stating: “Pride, Not Prejudice.” Since the International Day Against Homophobia falls on May 17, it was the closest home game to that date for the Army to show its solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
International Day Against Homophobia is the annual celebration that aims to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBTQ rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBTQ rights work. The objective is to make the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia a moment of global awareness and mobilization that serves as a useful space for activists to act at all levels.
“The Timbers Army has had a ‘zero-tolerance for intolerance’ policy since its inception in 2001,” Timbers Army 107 Independent Supporters Trust Board Member Abram Goldman-Armstrong told MLSsoccer.com. “Our display in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia demonstrates our commitment to making certain all people are welcome at the beautiful game, on the pitch and off of it.”
At the April 15 home game against San Jose Earthquakes, forward Alan Gordon called Timbers midfielder Will Johnson a “fucking faggot,” which was seen on NBC Sports. The MLS was quick to respond to Gordon by suspending him for three games, fining him, and requiring him to attend diversity and sensitivity training. Adding to the already proactive stance against this sort of behavior, the MLS produced a “Don’t Cross the Line” video that encourages equality and no tolerance for bigotry and homophobia. It’s played in all stadiums before the matches begin.
The next Timbers home game will be Saturday, June 15. The next Thorns home game is this Thursday, May 16, the day before International Day Against Homophobia. My guess is that rainbows will once again fill the stands.
Shaley Howard is a sports writer for PQ Monthly as well as an athlete, sports enthusiast, and organizer of the annual HRC Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament. She is also is the owner and operator of Scratch N’ Sniff Pet Care, which she considers the best job in the world. Shaley can be reached at email@example.com.