Category Archives: Soccer

It’s a Nice Day for a Red Card Wedding*

By Stephanie Steiner
Photo: Sounder at Heart

It was June 16, 2015 on a gorgeous summer evening at Starfire Sports Complex. There aren’t very many better ways to spend a summer evening than with a beautiful clear sky, a gentle breeze, a great beer garden, and some badass footy about to happen on the pitch right in front of you. Parking sucked, the enemy was in our fair city, and trains were rolling by. It was perfect. And then it wasn’t.

The center referee was Daniel Radford. I didn’t know enough yet to hate him. The front office staff had already challenged his experience earlier in the week, but I wasn’t overly concerned – this was Open Cup and there were typically a lot of guys on the pitch without a ton of experience. I had my hot dog, I had my beverage, I had my friends, and I had a great view. Let’s fucking go.

The procession began and… wait wait wait! – we have two dark teams on a dark green turf. Even while it was daylight, it wasn’t easy to distinguish Sounders from the Termites. As it got darker, it became more difficult to see who was who. Was this ref confused? His calls were not making sense. Radford, quite simply, was a mess. He was nitpicking strange things: throw-ins for instance. He made people start over. He called things back. He made very tough calls over embellishments and flops. He was micromanaging the smallest pebbles when he should have been paying attention to the avalanche. It was laughable except there was nothing funny about it. It was a disaster. Tempers were getting hotter and about to blow.

Halftime: Sounders changed into white jerseys to help our boys see each other on the pitch. Portland had come to Seattle with only their green kits. I’m not sure this helped Radford, but it did help us in the stands.

49th Minute: The Termites score. Rodney Wallace gets one by Troy Perkins.

69th Minute: Brad Evans received his second yellow over nothing. Daniel Radford, had he had the experience of a seasoned referee should have controlled the match with some reason. Instead, he tried to control the match with penalty cards. Now, we’re down our Sheriff: Brad Evans is out of the match over an absolute joke call.

Brad sloooooowly walks off the pitch.

Sounders’ Obafemi Martins immediately scores to bring us even 1-1.

85th Minute: Play resumes and the unthinkable happens: there’s a tangle at midfield and Oba goes down and stays down. He lifts his head up to call for help, and though none of us in the stands can hear it, we know this is bad. Radford, in the only good action he took all night calls for team trainers who eventually get medical staff. Oba is taken off the field on a gurney. Seattle had just used the third and final substitute – we’re now down to nine men on the pitch and heading to overtime. What a night. Can’t we get a new center ref in extra time?

100th minute: Rodney Wallace again: BLAM! Another goal for the Termites.

112th minute: Michael Azira wins a ball (Fernandez flops – the effing effer) and for his efforts, Azira is accused of tossing an elbow: red card, ejected. Seattle has eight men on the pitch. Seattle has eight men on the pitch. Ross Fletcher called the match that night and in amazement announced, “Seattle will end this game WITH. EIGHT. MEN.” Oh Ross. You were so wrong. We all were.

At this point, members of both teams are walking around on the turf, waiting for Azira to exit and waiting for FishFlopFernandez to get his sorry ass up. I might be showing my personal views, but I don’t care (my heart rate is up as I type this out, too). Anyway, all of a sudden, Radford shoots up another yellow like he’s some kind of pop-up clown! What is going on now? Pop! Another card! Pop! Another card! Dempsey got a yellow card for walking by. Now, I’m not naïve, so I’m going to assume that walk included colorful language which generated the yellow. And then: ZING: a RED. Finally, a red card was earned! Click the link to the video and halfway through it you see Clint Dempsey pick up Daniel Radford’s book and rip it up. Clint Dempsey tore up the referee’s book! I remember that glorious moment.

Some people say Clint Dempsey lost his mind, but I think he found it. I think he felt the accumulated angst and frustration of all of us in Sounderland that night and he did what he needed to do for us.

Jack in the Box child's toy

Pro Referees Official Photo of Daniel Radford

Only fourteen seconds had passed; it was still the 112th minute. Now Dempsey had been issued a red card and ejection. Head Coach Sigi Schmidt was standing over in the corner – our head coach had separated himself from the bench: he’s away from all officials. I feel ya’ Sig. I get it. At this point, there’s pushing and shoving on the pitch. Dempsey wanted to speak his mind with Radford.

Sounders were stepping in. The crowd was getting louder and louder, and a water bottle landed about five feet onto the pitch. Seattle had only seven men left to play. Portland was still at eleven. The score was 1-2, Portland. Ty Mears, Andy Rose, and Chad Marshall all helped Clint make his way to the sideline.

116th minute: Max Urruti scored again for Portland and the Termites celebrated the goal. They were still wildly celebratory when their opponent had only seven men on the pitch. That’s insane. That’s rivalry.

Three and a half minutes later the final whistle blew: our Open Cup hopes were smashed that year. A police escort got Radford out of the area, that jackass.

police car with lights flashing

Photo by Martin Buckley

Trash cans were overturned onto the pitch. Soda cups landed on the turf, along with more water bottles. We all know not to throw stuff onto the pitch: every single one of us knows that. The emotional outrage was so strong, that some of us couldn’t control the force of the energy. I’m not better than any person who let loose; I just didn’t have anything that I was willing to part with.

Over the coming weeks, Clint Dempsey was vilified in social media for putting his Club in jeopardy. We didn’t have Oba, and because of his own actions, we didn’t have Clint’s striking capacity for a while either. He was blamed for our losing streak. He lost his captaincy of the U.S. Men’s National Team. He was suspended several matches of U.S. play (six matches or two years of play, whichever was greater).

I understand why people were livid with Clint, but I think what we gained outweighs what we lost. We, as fans, walked in expecting to win this match – I know I did. We gained renewed interest in a rivalry which had grown a tad ho-hum. We gained a villain. Dempsey had a reputation for being a bad boy, but he showed the world he was our bad boy: unpredictable, hot-headed, and man of the people. He actually did what every Sounders fan in that stadium wanted to do. He didn’t just breathe new life into a rivalry, he inflated it with fire.

Post-match, the Clap Clap Clap Sounders ! chant went on forever, and it boomed. We wanted Oba to hear us on the exam table. We wanted those Termites to hear us as they left in their bus. I remember watching the flashing lights of the police escort as it made its way out toward Fort Dent Way: my chest was tight with pride and we were still chanting. We wanted Radford to hear us all the way to the fucking airport.

As much as the 2015 season was painful, Red Card Wedding is now Sounders lore. Dempsey’s actions have become legendary. It’s unlikely we’ll remember ten years from now why Azira got a red card, perhaps not even our own Sherriff. But Clint: tearing up a referee’s book is now historical. This is the kind of match that four thousand people attended and twenty-five thousand will say they did: the stories have been recounted so many times that people think they remember being there. It was that good.

*Red Wedding is an episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones, in which nearly everyone in one beloved family dies. A few seasons later, the family returns to greatness. Red Card Wedding is a fabulous and apt reference.

Stars for All

February 23rd, 2017

By Stephanie Steiner

Sounders: You will have a star. Our team earned it, we will all be able celebrate that championship authentically regardless of our size or gender. You matter. The star matters. We have been heard.

#StarsForAll: hashtag, battle cry, and quite frankly a no-brainer. Now we’re closer to it being a reality. Stars may be applied post-purchase to our Sounders gear. I have no idea where the team stores are going to be able to source dump trucks full of stars, but I wish them Godspeed. Sounders: please be patient. They have only known this for hours. Any stars applied to jerseys in the next few weeks are miracles.  Give them time.

Our list of champions extends beyond the field, and beyond the locker room.  Our Front Office has been championing our #StarsForAll cause for months (minus the hashtag). In 2015, someone at MLS made the decision that only authentic jerseys would receive stars. We don’t agree this this decision. Members of our front office did not agree with this decision and pursued it relentlessly. Taylor Graham and Doug Orweiler are warriors.

Yesterday morning we started sending teasers to let you know we were in the #StarsForAll battle. Battle might not be the best way to describe it – but we had a multi-step, multi-club, multi-month plan of action that we had just begun.  The first step was the declaration, the second was a letter* sent via FedEx to MLS Headquarters.  Steps three through twenty-seven would have involved all of you – but it looks like we might not need them.

We look forward to the longer term plan from MLS and are deeply grateful for the short term solution provided for Sounders. Now we wait for MLS to reveal its next steps: we were never in this for only our Club. Our letter clearly declares that we believe all fans of all championship Clubs deserve stars. It is our hope that all Clubs can learn their solutions expeditiously.

Update: late in 2017, MLS fully rescinded its prior decision and stars were made available for all fans of any championship club regardless of gender or size of the fan.

#StarsForAll #YouWillHearUs

MLS to allow championship stars on Sounders’ replica jerseys after supporter protest

Originally published February 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm Updated February 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm

 1 of 2 | Clint Dempsey models the Sounders’ new kit. (Courtesy photo / Sounders FC)

 2 of 2 | The star will be featured on all Sounders replica jerseys after the MLS gave into fans’ demands. (Courtesy photo / Sounders FC)

Major League Soccer changes policy after pressure from Sounders fans and will now allow championship stars to be placed on all the team’s 2016 and 2017 replica jerseys.


Geoff Baker 

Seattle Times staff reporter

Stephanie Steiner was taking at least the day to savor a victory for Sounders fans before pondering the next move.

The president of the team’s Alliance Council was dissecting a Major League Soccer announcement Thursday that it had reversed a merchandising policy after a protest by Sounders fans. Previously, championship stars commemorating the team’s MLS Cup win in December could only be added to authentic Sounders jerseys and not the replica home and secondary uniform versions favored by much of the fan base – especially women and children.

Championship squads sporting a gold star above their team crest has been a longstanding soccer tradition worldwide. The MLS policy switch will now see stars added to all 2016 and 2017 Sounders jerseys instead of only the authentic version.

“The authentic jersey … is designed for professional soccer players,’’ said Steiner, a third-year president of the Alliance, comprised of about 35,000 of the team’s season-ticket holders. “How many people in the fanbase fit the body type of a professional soccer player? Kids don’t. They’re too small. Women develop breasts – it’s an inevitable event. And men have to be incredibly athletic for that to fit.

“So, what’s the percentage of the population that can fit well in authentic jerseys. So, they were saying ‘Nobody else gets that star.’ And that’s kind of ridiculous.’’

And for now, nobody but Sounders fans will get it either. A statement issued by the Sounders, who negotiated directly with the league on the Alliance’s behalf, said the MLS plans to review the policy at the conclusion of each season.

Bart Wiley, the team’s chief operating officer, said: “Many fans expressed to us their concerns with the previous championship star policy and we applaud Alliance Council leadership for representing their constituents to address those concerns with MLS and our organization.”

Fan bases clamoring for stars on their team merchandise wasn’t really an issue for the league until the highly-popular Portland Timbers won their first MLS Cup in 2015.

The Timbers actually went ahead and started selling stars on all jerseys without getting league permission. But the league clamped down on the practice this year.

MLS declined to issue any further statements on the matter Thursday, other than what was conveyed in the Sounders press release.

For now, the stars will be added to all Sounders home and Pacific Blue jerseys as well as a new “Heritage Kit” version unveiled Thursday that will commemorate the team’s first season in 1974. The jock tag on the bottom left of that jersey reads “Born in 1974”.

Steiner said she was first made aware via social media and texts from Sounders fans right after the team’s title win over Toronto that they were irate about the policy. She approached the Sounders about it and found they too had heard from fans and had already initiated discussions about it with the league.

With the Sounders acting as a go-between, talks ensued over the next several weeks as the Alliance pushed for a policy change. The fan group sent the league a formal letter, but never spoke directly to MLS officials – leaving that to the Sounders.

Steiner said her group was given the impression during negotiations that the league had been trying to create more value for the authentic jerseys by limiting the use of stars to them in order to differentiate them from the replica version.

She hadn’t heard about MLS limiting its policy switch to just Sounders jerseys for now until reading about it in a Seattle Times online post on Thursday. She’ll wait until hearing something officially from the league before deciding whether to continue the planned campaign against the policy.

“The important thing for me is, if you’re going to build this in the U.S., you’ve got to build it for kids,’’ Steiner said. “These are their heroes. These are the people they look up to. So, let them celebrate the championship.’’

Dear White Male Liberal Soccer Fans

Dear White Male Liberal Soccer Fans:

There’s a conversation we need to have about a group within your ranks. The bros. Only, they don’t think they’re bros.

On Sunday, September 10th two fans had rough experiences with security entering the stadium. Brian Larsen was racially profiled. Brynn Baker was called a bitch. There were other incidents, but these two were very personal and demeaning. I believe both of them are telling the truth. Most people within the local soccer community want an environment that welcomes inclusion.  Some demand it. But their demands are anything but inclusive: bros engaged in the very behavior they condemned.

The terse statement from the Club was a disappointment, but here are a few things you should know:

  • Small statements do not mean a small investment into an issue and large statements do not mean large investments into an issue.
  • They’re short likely because they’re all that will be allowed by the legal minds.
  • What you want to hear will not be allowed. (confirmed 9.19 – the Club has no plans to make a more elaborate statement. confirmed again 9.26, personnel used the term “handcuffed for legal reasons”).

In my opinion, the fact that this was a joint statement instead of a Club statement might also indicate that there could be contractual language that prevents the FO from speaking singularly now.

Shortly after posting the joint statement, Council’s Executive Leaders posted this reaction, which wasn’t nearly angry enough for the bros. We had watched social media all day, we watched people whip each other up into a snarling mess.  We had no intention of stirring that up further and sending people, mad with rage, hurtling toward the gates: because what could possibly go wrong?

When this group wants a witch hunt, it will have one, and this isn’t the first time: they harassed the hell out of account managers over absent livestream (including threats and challenging their sexuality). I’ve experienced the same over electronic Matchpasses, clear bags, and our team’s record.

The bros say they want an atmosphere of inclusion, where everyone can feel welcome. Yet, in one twelve-hour period, their behavior was so bad that other women identified it as abusive.  While people were snapping online that all should feel safe and comfortable within this soccer community, they were stirring up a level of unrest that put my safety at risk.  Know why?  They declared themselves right at the expense of others – and it felt good to them.

Is that fostering an atmosphere of inclusion? I don’t feel safe in this community. Women saw it and did wellness checks on me.  One asked if she could call someone to stay with me. This is serious shit, people.

By now, some of you have already written my comments off as overreaction, or ‘tough – you took the position so put up with it.’  Well, that’s just more of the problem.  I’m tired of minimizing.

You’re rightfully upset at the security staff for demeaning and insulting people as they entered the stadium, escalating situations unnecessarily, profiling and getting politically judgmental. I have no argument. I’m upset with it too. My argument is with the people within our soccer community who do that to others or whip up frenzy such that they create exactly the same thing.

In one twelve-hour period, I was demeaned, verbally attacked, someone decided my politics (incorrectly) and began insulting and attacking the opinions they invented: all this from white men.

Have I always been perfect? Of course not. I am an evolving, learning being.  But this bit? This is an ongoing predictable issue, and in this case, it’s a near mirror of the behavior being condemned.

If it’s predictable, why didn’t I just explain the likely legal position of the Club to those angry guys?  I did.  Here were some of their responses:

          I know that.
          Fuck you, you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.
          Shut up.
          I’m not new.
          You’re a waste of time.
          Someone needs to threaten you.  <-it happens each year, jackass.

One person wrote a sample PR statement that the Club “should” have made. Great – sounded awesome.  But PR wasn’t invited to the conversation for specific legal wrangling reasons: any attorney worth half a nickel is going to take an after-the-fact statement and twist it into an accusation.  But you know that, you’re not new, I need to shut up, I’m a waste of time, and someone needs to threaten me – right bros?  Since they’re experienced and knowledgeable, I have assumed the intentions to be malicious, and the messages that were triggered were exactly the impact they expected.

Nothing within this faction of the community is simple, not even statements. It would suck if someone who deserved to be fired got an attorney and a fat payout because people kept amplifying when quiet can prevent a fat payout. That would be horrible injustice for Brian Larsen. You’re all smart enough to figure this out. We made a non-inflammatory statement because we want a solution more than we want angry amplification.  The solution is going to require unimpeded investigation. But the bros don’t want that.  I’m not sure they even remember the notion of justice for Brian – they just want to be right and make me and the FO wrong. If the bros get to enjoy some hits of being the “big man” along the way, they’re happy. This behavior is the reason the term “social justice warrior” is not a compliment. Two weeks later, the bros are actively inventing their own stories about what is or is not happening (that’s called lying).

 “I never said anything insulting.” If I asked you to stop copying me, and you ignored my boundary: you’re included. If you filled the space with made-up bullshit, you’re included. If you intentionally whipped people up instead of committing to inclusion: you’re included – because this behavior is what the bros in the community consistently do and there is nothing inclusive about it.

Now go ahead – ask me why people don’t do more on Alliance Council.  Ask me why the FO has “so much” turnover in their account manager positions. It might be you, bro.

postscript: Each year since becoming President, I’ve dealt with sexist attacks. Every man I’ve dated has asked me to give it up because of the emotional toll it takes on me, and women ask me if it’s really worth it (it isn’t).  But I know we’re better than this, and we can commit to a future better than what we can imagine. Here’s why I do it – take a look at this kid’s face:

photo by Sounders FC from the 9.10.17 match