By Michael Lewis
Red Bulls supporters group Viking Army SC has decided to take a stand, which means those fans won’t be standing for the MLS team against the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
In protest of the Dante Vanzeir’s racial slur and feeling the Belgian forward should have been slapped with more than a six-game suspension by Major League Soccer, Viking Army will walk of the stadium in Harrison, N.J. prior to the 7:39 p.m. ET kickoff.
MLS assessed Vanzeir a six-match suspension, although the league did not reveal the fine for his “use of racist language” in the second half of the team’s 1-1 home draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, April 8.
Vanzeir, a Belgian in his first season with the Red Bulls, also cannot compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, MLS NEXT Pro contests and exhibitions until his ban is finished. MLS also will require Vanzeir to participate in additional league-mandated training and education sessions, as well as a restorative practices program.
Vanzeir, who cost the Red Bulls in a $5 million transfer fee, said his racist remark in the 53rd minute on Saturday. It caused the game to be delayed 21 minutes, forcing a league-record 22 stoppage time minutes.
That six-game suspension, however, was far from enough by the league or the team.
After a vote by club members of the organization announced its intentions on Friday afternoon.
“At this time the board would like to thank all of our members who took the time to vote. As a result, we will be moving forward with a walkout of the South Ward immediately following the national team,” Viking Army said on Twitter.
“Our collective plan is the following: We will walk into 102 and stand for the national anthem with scarves raised. We will NOT be yelling RED as is customary.
“At the completion of the anthem then, we will as a group, walk out in protest.
“If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a board member at any time. We thank you for participating and understanding why we are doing this.
“Some things are bigger than soccer and we need to take a stand.
Viking Army has called the South Ward home since RBA opened in 2010.
Viking Army isn’t the only supporters club peeved at the league and the team.
“We are beyond disappointed by the announced suspension of only six games,” the organization said on Twitter on Thursday. “This is a miscarriage of justice and a dereliction of duty on the part of MLS. It is clear that ‘zero tolerance’ is just a slogan to MLS and that they are not serious about removing racism from the game.”