Controversy over banner with crossed-out swastika prompts meeting with Rising FC

PHOENIX — Controversy surrounding a banner featuring a crossed-out swastika has prompted a Saturday meeting between Phoenix Rising FC and Los Bandidos, a group that supports the soccer club.

“As of right now we’re trying to keep the conversation between us and the (front office),” Los Bandidos posted on Facebook in response to an interview request from Cronkite News. “Our focus is to come to a solution with the team.”

During a Saturday match between Phoenix Rising FC and Sacramento Republic in Tempe, the Los Bandidos support section, located behind the Rising’s goal, featured a banner draped along the wall that read “stop racism.” It included a variety of crossed-out hate symbols, including a crossed-out swastika.

The fan group opted to display “the special banner specifically because of the events that have been happening recently,” according to a post on Los Bandidos’ Facebook page.

The game was four days after President Trump’s divisive visit at the Phoenix Convention Center that triggered protests and discussions about race relations.

The game wasn’t the first time the Los Bandidos group revealed banners with messages reflecting hot-topic issues. In July, one said “refugees welcome” after President Trump used an executive order to implement a travel ban, which restricted travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“We are a group which takes pride in supporting our local club while trying to take part in the causes and issues we encounter in the stands and outside the stands,” said Los Bandidos in a Codes of Conduct post on its Facebook page.

The Los Bandidos supporters was approached by team personnel to take down the banner because of a request from a business partner, the group said. Members stated it would stay up or they would leave. The latter happened, leaving a nearly empty support section, which is an unusual sight for a Rising FC match.

Afterward, Rising FC issued a statement saying the banner was asked to be removed “in order to comply with United Soccer League stadium regulations and Phoenix Rising Football Club safety policies.”

The statement also said, “Phoenix Rising FC did not intend for our friends from Los Bandidos to leave our stadium, and apologize if our communications during the match did not properly demonstrate our respect and appreciation for its members. In fact, Phoenix Rising FC fully and unequivocally, supports the ‘Stop Racism’ sentiment of the banner and believes all people should be treated equally and with love.

According to United Soccer League stadium guidelines, “All banners and signs must be inspected by security as fans enter the stadium, at least 30 minutes before kickoff. The club has the right to deny any banner’s display in the venue. Any sign or tifo deemed offensive, explicit, racist, homophobic or in bad taste will not be permitted in the venue.”

In a Facebook post, Los Bandidos wrote, “We were never on bad terms with the ownership or (front office) ,we had a good standing with them before and now through direct discussion with the club- it’s brought us even closer. We are working together this week to make sure the culture of tolerance & expression will continue, and we’re working to make sure we make the same presence this Saturday.”