For those of our readers who don't pay attention to social media there was an incident during the Sporting Kansas City match. No, not the one where Ray Gaddis shoved Benny Feilhaber over. This appeared in The River End.
To explain, the above pictures show Nick Sakiewicz as the grim reaper and the tombstones show his previous clubs, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, the New York/New Jersey Metrostars and current club the Philadelphia Union. Sakiewicz bailed out of the Tampa Bay Mutiny The year before they were contracted by MLS in 2001. He was also at the helm of the Metrostars when they were sold to Red Bull in 2006 and the Union snake has no date but the entire tifo reads as "Death be not proud".
The obvious message of the signage was that Nick is going to be the death of the Union. This sentiment is nothing new among the hard core fans but it's a message that has been gaining traction and volume lately. It's not hard to find former die hard fans on social media claiming they did not renew their season tickets in protest or conspiring to plan some sort of public show of dissent.
The message was obviously heard loud and clear by someone in the front office because the tifo was confiscated and removed by a member of the Union staff less than ten minutes after it was displayed. The club responded to an inquiry by claiming that the display was not approved by the Union staff and thus violated their policy.
Various members of the Sons of Ben disagree, asserting that all tifo is inspected prior to every match and that the Union staff responsible for doing so did not remove the tifo from the pile pre match. This could have been a matter of simply not looking at the tifo hard enough or even at all by the staff responsible. However it happened, the tifo was carried in with all the rest of the banners and flags and was therefore assumed "legal" by those who displayed it.
I will stop short of calling it an assault on free speech, but stifling voices of respectful and legitimate dissent does not shine a favorable light on the Union's front office or do anything to dispel their reputation as a reactionary and closed management group.
Only time will tell whether this display was the venting of frustration by a few fans over what was perhaps the worst of the Union's five seasons or the beginning of a movement seeking change from the top down in Chester.