If anyone has anything else relevant to Saturday night's events - especially videos - please email them or post them in the comment section.
During Saturday night's New England Revolution match against the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium there was a disturbance in the general admission section known as "The Fort." Sections 142 and 143, where the team's most hardcore fans sit, was the site of a walkout and multiple arrests after TeamOps and security had several altercations with supporters, allegedly started over the repeated use of a particular chant.
I was in the press box and I remember seeing something go down, but I was too far away and too disconnected to know exactly what. All I remember is that after a certain point in the second half, the sound on the field died and the Fort looked almost empty. It was the tweets from Brian Smith and other supporters that alerted us to the goings-on, but certainly nothing could have prepared me for what I heard actually happened.
I got the emotionally-charged cliff notes version of the story after the match at Bar Louie, but today I had a long phone conversation with Kyle Santos, co-founder of the Rebellion, where I got a full rundown of the night's events. Coupled with the accounts posted elsewhere on The Indirect Kick and The Drug Is Football, I think I can speak with some authority on at least one viewpoint from the incident.
The debacle centers on the Supporters' Groups use of the "You Suck A**hole" chant whenever an opposing goalkeeper takes goal kicks. Earlier this season, the Front Office approached the Rebellion and the Riders and asked them to start cutting out the profanity in those situations. According to Kyle, they were told that particular chant was having an undesirable effect on other season ticket holders. When Kyle pointed out that getting the entire group to stop using a phrase that had been kosher for a decade or more, the FO staff were understanding and said that if it could be totally knocked out by the end of the season they would be happy.
The Riders and the Rebels both went a step further and distributed PDF files to outline the Fort "code of conduct." Despite all of this, the process of removing that phrase from matchday proceedings was predictably slow. Apparently, this weekend the Revs and TeamOps reached their last straw.
"You could tell when you showed up," Kyle said. "You just knew something was going to happen."
Fans made note of the increased presence of police and TeamOps staff around the Fort early in the match, but it wasn't until later that the situation escalated. Monty Rodrigues, former long-time president of the Midnight Riders, was verbally abused by TeamOps staff while standing as capo in the second half. After being twice berated - with profane language, mind you - by security/TeamOps representatives and being accused of leading offensive chants and inciting a riot, Monty threw up his hands and walked out of the Fort.
Keep in mind that capos are told in no uncertain terms not to swear, because otherwise the megaphone will be taken from them. I've been to games, I've sat in the Fort, and I don't remember Monty swearing or leading chants with profanity, unless it was added by the supporters.
At that point, TeamOps, security and police descended on the Fort with what seemed to be extreme prejudice. This is stuff you can see in the TV broadcast of the match. "They came down like they'd had a pep talk from Knute Rockne," recalled Santos. Fans were removed forcefully from the Fort, and even those who peacefully and unassumingly followed Monty out in protest were randomly grabbed and, in some cases, arrested for it. In the video below provided by a supporter in the area, you can clearly see a fan offering no resistance as he is arrested for, to quote the Foxborough police officer cuffing him, "being a f*****g dickhead."
The night ended with a nearly empty Fort. There are two confirmed arrests and 20 Gillette Stadium bans, with rumors of far more. Later in the match, several independent supporters tried to get up and lead the sparse remaining fans in some innocuous (and now nearly inaudible) chants and songs but were yoked up and removed from the premises almost immediately.
At a restaurant after the match, Kyle was approached by players demanding to know what happened. They had noticed the dramatic drop in volume in the second half and were confused. When he explained the situation, they expressed bafflement bordering on outrage.
Kyle is confident that the problem doesn't lie with the front office. "It's just weird, I don't get it. I know it's not anything with the Front Office, because I know they would try. Nobody was in the right on Saturday, not us, not them, but maybe someone forced the Revs to let them be heavy-handed."
Event security at Gillette is run by TeamOps, an organization that answers solely to Bob Kraft. According to Kyle, security teams are different for almost every match. There is no opportunity to establish rapport or continuity with their staff, and if the Rebellion requests a meeting with Gillette's TeamOps head, Mark Briggs, they are ignored. Meetings with the front office, meanwhile, are always granted.
However, Brian Bilello was quick to point out that Saturday night had everything to do with the Revolution and nothing to do with TeamOps. In a post on the team's Facebook page, he stated "...make no mistake, the issue [Saturday] was about a member of the Revolution staff...asking on behalf of the organization to once again stop using that chant. This was not a security issue."
Santos is unsure what to think of the events, but is pretty sure there won't be any serious fallout.
"The supporters will be silent in protest, which is exactly what team ops wants because they won't have to deal with it. It's whatever team ops wants. It's a no-win situation for anybody. Nobody wins.
"Honestly, we talked amongst the groups and we don't think there's anything we can really do. We're gonna talk about it and go from there. We don't know what to do, it's so unprecedented that we're totally unprepared. We'll probably just tell our members to stop swearing and go from there. As long as we can still support the team that's all that matters."
It is, however, important to note that and keep perspective. Imagine if this happened overseas or in a different country - supporters would literally riot. As it stands, Kyle and the Rebellion have received dozens, if not hundreds, of messages of support from other MLS supporters groups (every club represented) and even supporters of soccer from other countries via text message, Facebook and Twitter.
If any of you have unique perspectives on the events or have videos and/or photos, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them in the comment section as you continue this discussion.