Star Wars – calling it a win

21 September 2017

By Stephanie Steiner

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

Very recently the Sounders’ Front Office announced on a joint call with MLS and adidas’ committee regarding championship stars, that regardless of the 2017 MLS Cup match outcome, all Sounders jerseys will have access to stars earned. 

Here are the details: 

Since we got involved and began applying pressure in this conversation, MLS and adidas agreed that they could work stars into the production of 2019 kits, but gave us lip service about the “complications,” of anything for 2018.  This came in a letter from MLS’s Chief Legal Counsel that essentially told us to shut up and go away, if they had anything to communicate, they’d do it via the Club. 

I made the request that they put the desires of the fans first, and consider that after-purchase heat application can be a viable solution for any club. We followed up with the Club consistently only to learn that a committee had been formed. There was “no news” for a long time.

On August 20th of this year, the Alliance Council had our summer meeting with owners and leadership, and I inquired about the status of the star situation.  It was reiterated that 2019 kits would be covered: since nothing was manufactured, production could accommodate championship acknowledgement* on authentic and replica jerseys. Next, a new complication: MLS had expanded their investment into retail by vastly multiplying their contracted retail outlets and were worried that if only some stores could heat apply stars and others couldn’t, those stores which couldn’t would return the jerseys they ordered, and this could hamper the relationship they’d just built with these new small stores.  My view: MLS is putting the relationships with stores ahead of the relationship with fans.  I called BS.

I said that the small retailers who’d just partnered with MLS were either capable of heat application or they were not capable, and they were already aware of their capabilities because they either have the equipment to heat apply names and numbers to jerseys, or they don’t have the equipment. So for them to get into business with MLS and reject jerseys over a star is a ludicrous idea.  What was really going on here is that MLS and adidas were fully aware that those small stores know whether or not they can heat apply stars.  What they were counting on is that I wasn’t aware enough to figure that out. It was just another line of crap.

 

Image from YouTube

Based on the lack of supportive developments from MLS, I let the Sounders owners and leadership know that we intended to go forward with our plans to protest (Sounders were/are not the target and I also made sure I was clear to reinforce that).  I was done with MLS and adidas putting more reasons for not honoring fans into a conversation that never should have been necessary to begin with:  they caused the problem, and they continued to cause more problems in our request that they solve the issue they created.  I have zero confidence that they ever approached this from the perspective of “fan first.” They never even included a fan representative on the committee.

Bart Wiley, COO, represents the Sounders on this committee.  He let us know that he’d be on a call with the rest of the group in early September.  Martin Buckley, Vice President of the Alliance Council followed up with him on Tuesday and learned that Bart announced on the committee call that Sounders FC will acquire stars for all 2018 jerseys purchased through our official team stores and our partner stores, regardless of the plans made (or not made) by MLS and adidas.  This is big.

Now: what about everyone else?  We said we were in this for all championship winners, not just us.  We requested and received a commitment from Bart Wiley that our Club will assist any other club that wishes to do the same.  It was our hope that MLS and adidas would step up, but they didn’t: I’m proud of our Club.

At this point, we will not proceed with our plans to protest: we’re calling this a win for fans.  Early this year, Taylor Graham wanted me to explain what our protest plans were. I declined and said instead when this was resolved, I’d buy an adult beverage for him, Bart, Doug Orwiler, each of the owners, and Martin Buckley – and I’d explain the details of the protest they had avoided.  My offer still stands.

We have way too many people to thank individually:

First, we all need to thank Bart and the front office leaders at Seattle Sounders FC who stood up for us fans in this conversation when MLS and adidas shut us out. The Sounders have many reasons to keep a strong relationship with both of those entities and they chose to put fans first. Bart Wiley made the announcement, and I’m sure there were more people involved in the decision.

Next, I want to thank all of the attorneys who said yes to supporting us “ACLU style” when I asked them to buff up on protestors’ rights and be present on the day, in case legal minds were needed to remind cops and stadium security that all was legal.

I send very special and whole-hearted thanks to the other clubs across the league that were willing to join and get their fans on board. Many clubs have won; all clubs have the possibility of earning that star. We were never in this just for ourselves and knowing we had the ability to create a visible protest in multiple cities on behalf of all fans and all clubs is tremendous.

Of course, I thank all of you who met us at Fuel or joined in when I asked for your help on social media: it shows the love and commitment you have for your Club, your Crest, and your Championship. It matters.

Last, but never least:  we all need to thank Martin Buckley for his diligence, thoughtfulness, and (for me!) keeping me out of jail.

*There’s a rumor going around that 2019 championships (and beyond) will be recognized with an emblem other than a star. Because MLS.  As a fan, I think it’s absolute marketing garbage.  As the President of the Alliance Council – this is not our fight.

Photo credit badge for the main image: Jon Tyson

Stars For All

February 23rd, 2017

By Stephanie Steiner

Sounders: You will have a star. Our team earned it, we will all be able to 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.

In a joint Press Release made just minutes ago, it was announced that 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 with this this decision. Members of our front office did not agree with this decision and pursued it relentlessly. Doug Orweiler, Taylor Graham and several others are warriors.

Yesterday morning we started sending teasers to let you know we were all in for 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. The post-purchase star application for Sounders is MLS’s short-term solution.

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.

#StarsForAll #YouWillHearUs