Editorial: Some symbols need to be used with great care

At its home soccer match on Saturday, Aug. 26, Phoenix Rising officials asked some of the team’s most dedicated fans to remove a banner it was flying.

The banner said, “Stop Racism.”

Los Bandidos, a fan club of the United Soccer League team in Phoenix, has displayed anti-racism messages at all of the team’s home games this year. But there was something different about this banner, one that concerned club officials.

It contained four symbols, each was crossed out. One of the four symbols was a swastika. The banner contained a swastika, which caused club officials to ask them to put it away.

Los Bandidos instead chose to walk out during the middle of the game. Los Bandidos issued a statement on their Facebook page:

“Apparently, the team was asked by a business partner if we could take that banner down. To which we said, if that one goes down, they all go down. At which point, we left. This is where we draw a line, implying that racism is fine is concerning. Everyone in the club and the USL needs to have a think about what it is that football stands for; they need to have a think about what kind example we’re setting for everyone. To the players, we give our all to you, our songs, our banners, our effort is to help you. Values are not for sell [sic].”

The team also issued a statement on its Facebook page:

“Although the purpose of the banner was to ‘Stop Racism,’ which is permitted as a message in our stadium, baiting artwork, such as a crossed-out swastika, invites the most disgusting element in our society to deliver a thuggish rejoinder which has no place in our stadium.”

A spokesperson from Los Bandidos said this week that the club is working with the team’s front office to resolve this situation. In the end, both want to see the players and team succeed and both agree on the overall message, that racism has no place not only in sports, but in society.

This is a sad situation for everyone. First, Los Bandidos needs to realize there are some symbols so awful that displaying them causes emotions to overtake judgement. The swastika is one of them, since it was the symbol used to kill more than 6 million people and send the world to war.

The team also needs to recognize that no reasonable person could look at that banner and think it was promoting hate. Thicker skin and calmer heads could have kept this from becoming an issue.

We all need to be more careful when deciding when, or if, we’ll display symbols of hate. We need to recognize the pain they do cause some people. Still, it’s a bit of an overreaction when some of your most devoted fans feel they have to leave in the middle of the game because of a banner that says, “Stop Racism.”

The Los Bandidos fan club should recognize that using hateful symbols can drown out the positive message they wish to send, and be a little more careful when designing their banners.