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

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

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Million-dollar lotto ticket sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Carina Stokes, bar manager at Enderby’s Small Axe Bistro, was recognized as one of four exceptional B.C. restaurant workers by the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby bar manager recognized as ‘stand-up’ B.C. restaurant worker

Small Axe Roadhouse’s Carina Stokes one of four to receive special recognition from the BCRFA

Dawn Low is the first female CAO for the City of Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review file)
Armstrong welcomes new CAO

Dawn Low previously served as CAO in Revelstoke since 2019

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Most Read