Ugly incident reveals deep rifts within NYCFC’s budding supporters’ groups

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

An unseemly episode unraveled during the last New York City FC home match — and surprisingly, it has revealed a rift amongst the team’s various supporters’ groups.

As the story goes, a crew of 3-4 individuals caused panic and widespread fear amongst some of the fans within section 237.  As described by several people, each asking to remain anonymous, a series of empty seats in the Third Rail section of 237 (near 238) were taken up at halftime by a group of Hispanic males decked out in bomber jackets with distinctive gang-affiliated patches adorning the outerwear.  One member of this group was described as a person who “looked like he just got out of jail, with visible prison tats — and even had what looked like poorly treated knife scars across his head.”

But appearances weren’t the problem. Not by a long shot.

The group caused a raucous with their choice chants, which included racial epithets, neo-nazi propaganda and general hate speech.

These regrettable incidents happen all the time in any series of sporting events or entertainment gatherings throughout the world, and clearly do not reflect the position of the common NYCFC fan.  In fact, as one fan described it, the section was actually unified in silence, fearing “someone might knife us” if they were to speak against the rowdy trio.  To illustrate the level of fear, not a single video has emerged of the group anywhere online, which, as one fan explained, demonstrates the level of wariness surrounding them.

When rumblings of the “nazi incident” began to circulate amongst the team’s supporters, the finger pointing began, revealing some deep seeded ideological differences amongst each group.

For the purpose of clarity, the supporters’ section in Yankee Stadium spans from 236 to 238, with the mighty presence of the Third Rail mainly concentrated between 236 and 237.  238 has become home to some of the smaller supporters’ groups, including that of Brown Bag SC and the exclusive Hearts of Oak. While those designations exist, the area is fully general admission, meaning all groups tend to bleed into each section.

With their size, and as the only officially recognized supporters’ group within NYCFC, Third Rail received a heap of blame “for fostering the kind of atmosphere” that would allow hate speech to thrive in the bleachers.  With close proximity to 238, Hearts of Oak were also fingered by many as being the home of these questionable individuals.

EOS spoke with leadership in all three groups regarding the incident. Third Rail, Brown Bag and Hearts of Oak have all categorically denied that these “Latin skinheads” were members of their group. The reality is, these were likely folks who saw a group of available seats and snuck into the section during the halftime rush. Not a single leader from any of the above named groups witnessed the incident, either.

Nevertheless, they were united in decrying the entire affair.

“There is no room for it in our sections.  There is no room for it,” Chance Michaels, President of the Third Rail tells EOS.

“Hearts of Oak stand opposed to such acts of hatred, which are incompatible with membership,” HoO leader John Flanagan said. “We will do our part to keep 238 and our stadium a safe and welcoming space for all.”

Each group is in the process of addressing the incident with their members, circulating the Yankee Stadium report line to assure such issues never occur again.

But the unity amongst these groups ends there.

SPLINTERING WITHIN THE THIRD RAIL

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

There has been a quiet dissension within the ranks of NYCFC’s supporters, and Saturday’s incident only served to fray those relationships further.  At the center of the storm? The role of the Third Rail.

Third Rail is the team’s oldest and only recognized supporters group.  They have strong ties to the NYCFC front office stemming from their role in helping grow the numbers of season ticket sales for the team and actually employing the club’s current graphic designer to design their club logo.

That type of relationship runs counter to the norm for fan groups who have historically touted independence from the corporate level of club business for a more unique, grassroots look at fandom. Said perception, and several other issues, have caused a splintering within the Third Rail ranks, spawning several other groups, including that of Brown Bag and Hearts of Oak.

We all know that the Third Rail is closer to the club and Front Office than the rest of the groups.  As it stands, they’re the only officially recognized supporter’s group,” HoO’s Flanagan explains.  “For example, during the opening weekend, we had a few members, some of whom explicitly identified themselves as Hearts of Oak, inquire about individual match tickets in section 238. More than one of them received a response stating that individual tickets in 238 were not an option. However, they were told that if they were to purchase a Third Rail membership, they would then be eligible to purchase a single match ticket in section 237.

“None of our members elected to do so. Make of that what you will.”

Further displeasure in the group stems from their operational stance to be the “anti-South Ward,” the New York Red Bulls supporters section, eschewing the use of capos and rigid set lists for a more organic approach to fandom.

Again, that decision set a tone within the Third Rail that several members simply did not agree with.

“A lot of us grew up watching soccer in our parents countries, or some of our guys come from other countries, so we grew up watching soccer differently,” Brown Bag leader Oscar Martinez explained. “It’s not like a baseball atmosphere to us. We like to jump, we like to sing.

“The founding members [of Brown Bag] felt they weren’t represented, that there was a single minded view to what the supporters’ section should be and we didn’t feel a part of it.  Some even said they aren’t being told everything accurately.

“In the end, it comes down to we like to support in our own way and we are trying to see what can come out of this — and maybe even get a seat at the table.”

Michaels, perhaps the most visible and instrumental leader of the Third Rail, has heard it all — including accusations that the group was actually being run by NYCFC.  “You know, there are times I actually almost wish that were true,” Michaels said with a light hearted laugh. “With all the time we spend on this, it would be nice to get a paycheck out of this — but no. Absolutely not. We are all volunteers and do not receive any money, anything, from the club … other than some cooperation.”

Michaels, a native New Yorker and transplanted Milwaukee resident, acknowledges the reasons for the perceived rumor, but stays steadfast in his believe that the club is indeed organically run and representative of its members.  The lack of capos was a member mandate. The lack of a set playlist was a member mandate. Even the controversial use of New York City FC’s in-house graphic designer for the club’s logo has organic roots — the Third Rail employed Matt Wolfe for the project long long before NYCFC discovered him.

“I first ‘met’ Matthew Wolfe when he designed a concept logo for the club before he was hired,” Michaels said. “I reached out to him to do it at that point.  The fact that he got to become the club graphic designer before we had a name and logo, that happened to work out well.

“We are the largest group. We are the only recognized group. Obviously, we were easy short hand before for NYCFC supporters. I don’t know beyond what we are doing, what we could do otherwise. We are open to suggestions! I have no ego here — I am just trying to make the club better,” Michaels said.

Part of making the club better has meant learning from some of these critiques. Already, Third Rail has begun a deeper focus on the creation and distribution of songs and chants through their newsletters and social media vehicles. The once-eschewed capos have also returned to the conversation after two vastly underwhelming and non-unified showings in the club’s first two home matches.

“Now that we are in the stadium, it is becoming clear what is working and what is not,” Michaels said. “In consultation with our members, we are exploring new ways to get the section chanting and cheering in unison.”

All of these initiatives are not only to reflect the desires of membership, but are also a virtual olive branch to those who have parted with the club. Things could have initially been handled differently. Michaels acknowledges that. But as Third Rail continues to evolve, he hopes these small acts can serve to reunite the thousands across all groups under one song for the club.

“It seems only natural that as the number of supporters grow, the needs for what they want to see in a supporters’ group are going to be different. Neither is it surprising to me nor are we threatened by the existence of said groups,” he explains. “We are trying to walk the fine line between letting it develop organically and trying to give it a bit more guidance to offer a more polished product in the stands.”


Politics is nothing new when it comes to the hardcore fandom inherent in supporters’ culture. Everyone has their own way of going about the business of cheering their club no matter who they are and what team they support.

For the better part of 20 years, the New York Red Bulls’ South Ward has lived with that reality, spawning three separate, distinct supporters’ groups, each with their own ideal of what fandom should look like.

New York City FC is no different. As the team grows, so will the identity of the supporters’ culture. Capos or no capos. Set lists or organic chants. Front office involvement or independence. These vital arguments will undoubtedly shape the fans — and the team — for years to come.

But those differences did not stop each of the three groups from outright condemnation of a very ugly incident. On Saturday, each group found common ground in their disdain for the profane. Despite all their differences, leaders came together to make sure that the ugly aspects of world football do not seep into their ranks.

Between that incident and their love for the club, NYCFC fans may have unwittingly stumbled upon some level of unity. And who knows? Perhaps a moment of horror can bring about a lifetime of peace.

But, as with any supporters’ group, it is going to take a lot of work to get there.  And, after all, this is only game two.

PM EDIT: Per the suggestion of Brown Bag leadership, here is the official Yankee Stadium information to report unseemly behavior: Guests are encouraged to report any security or guest relations issue to the nearest Team Member, or Guests can confidentially text the issue to (917) 746- 0088

  • jspech

    calling bs on the “latin skinheads” description. “Latin Skinheads”? Sounds like an NYPD style excuse to me, but that’s just me. “Latin skinheads”

    • Well, it is coming from a Latino. That was the description sent my way from several witnesses. Not a racial thing at all.

      • TK

        I’ve had a few encounters with these guys. It’s an accurate description. They’re latino and they’re neo nazis. Try reasoning with someone of that ideology though.

        • LA

          Latino is not a race its an ethnicity. There are definitely hispanic nazi’s. Especially in Spain.

          • sergio

            Spain is not HIS-panic. That is a very definite distinction. I know, I’m from Spain and am SPANISH, not HISpanic.

            that said, it’s true, there are neo-nazi elements in Spain. Just like the rest of Europe.

            • Alex

              If you are native Spanish then you should know that the name España derives from the Roman name for the Iberia: Hispania, and that the term Hispanic was originally used to refer to persons from that region. If you are ethnically Spanish then you are Hispanic, far more so than the vast majority of Central/South Americans who are not recent immigrants from the peninsula.

    • Ultra Sensitive

      Boo hoo. Someone fears a politically insensitive comment was made.

      Dude – Dave is just calling these guys what they were. Don’t be a weiner…or is that insensitive to hot dogs?

  • Donny

    Bigots?!!
    At Sheikh Mansour’s Club?!!!

    This must be some kind of mistake

  • Rob

    Nice to see the supporter groups are going to take 20 years to get at each others throats.

  • ESU

    All you people are wrong about that , ypu have no idea what you guys or the guy who wrote the article is talking about , this guys are the most frendly and loyal ppl youll ever meet, noone the third rail is a joke , non of the people in that section know whats futbol means for some people, stop runing your mouth and aproche them stop going in the media and complaing about it , football and media dont mix its like water and oil , so do your homework ppl,

    • Anonymous

      Oh god learn English man.

    • Adolph Garcia

      Apparently you didn’t do much of your homework you illiterate fool.

    • Bovver

      Fuckn journos!

    • HCESU

      I know the gentlemen this article is referring to and they are good people not the bullshit that was written about them. I’m proud to say they are my friends. They are not neo-nazis, They might be skinheads but most people don’t know that there many different types of skins. People should familiarize themselves with hooligan/ultra culture before they rush to judgement. I think if they might have been dressed differently maybe people wouldn’t have said they were nazis. Or maybe these supposed supporter groups aren’t as accepting and open minded as they think they are.

      Oi Mother Fuckers!! NYC!

      • RASH

        Yea because Battalion 49 aren’t Nazis. Idiot. Just like RAC is good, wholesome music, eh? Fucking bonehead.

  • edwin

    fyi supporters section starts at 235. I demand you correct that!!

  • Anonymous

    Hahahah^^

  • Josue ultra

    Its sad that this what football became to ,… a bunch of ***** supporter, cry babies , cry!!!

    • beans

      Yeah lets get back to REAL football supporters: blackout drunk hispanics who were raised without fathers with no moral code or social obligation!

      • MLS

        Wow……

      • Anonymous

        Watching a game with drunk Brazilians screaming **** you and calling opponents faggots in Sao Paulo was a million times more entertaining experience for me personally than when I fell asleep in the stands of a Chicago Fire game. Sorry, but we’ll never stop yelling PUTO and other things that make you “very upset ;_;” Stay plastic. I bet you probably “support” some European team you have no connection to too.

        • Anonymous

          Then perhaps you should crawl back to whatever shithole South American country you came from.

  • Matt

    As a sports fan all my life and attending lots of games in different cities, I’ve never understood football hooligans. It’s fine to hate players or coaches because of how they play but to shout at and assault fans is stupid. It’s sports people – not two countries at war. Get over yourselves.

    It’s hard to imagine that 3-4 guys could silence an entire section of NYCFC fans because they keep telling me they’re tougher than I am because I’m a RBNY fan that doesn’t live in NYC proper. Don’t put them in a choke hold but just tell security. Grow a pair. After one month of the season I’m already tired of hearing from NYCFC fans that I suck because i don’t live in NYC.

    • wow funny

      So a manchester b team that plays in a baseball stadium has a sg whos head lives in wissconson got something to say about being NY?

    • Ultra Sensitive

      I know! What a bunch of cissy fans NYCFC has. These are the kind of men that let their wives get violated while they cower in a corner. Cissies.

      • kaetlin

        What kind of man are you?

        • Ultra Sensitive

          The kind you have been looking for.

    • Josue ultra

      ****
      THIRD RAIL sissies fucks !!!!!

      • Lol

        dont you have a lawn to mow?

  • Why are people resentful of Third Rail, besides the fact that they are a front office invention and their membership are frightened little puppies afraid to call security on saluting neo nazis in their midst? Well, I’ll tell you.

    It starts with Chance Michaels. While I was busy trolling the founding members of the Third Rail, and these new NYCFC fans were busy trying to get organized, Chance Michaels was with me at Hofstra, a Cosmos season ticket holder and special member of the Cosmos “Club 71”, doing everything in his power to promote the cosmos and kissing butt of front office employees. He stayed a fan until March, 2014, 10 months into the existence of NYCFC and after 10 months of work of the first supporters to rally around the newly created team.

    He interviewed for a job at the Cosmos front office in January, 2014, but apparently ultimately didn’t get it. Fast forward a few months, and suddenly, this Chance Michaels emerges as the “President” of the Third rail. After being turned down by the Cosmos, he rushed to Albany to register the third rail name, incorporating the entity and naming himself president. Total hijack of what other supporters were doing (selflessly, if misguidedly).

    How do I know all this? It was all in his social media history. He deleted it, but we’ve got the screenshots? So you wonder why Third Rail isn’t respected? there’s your answer.

    • Larry’s A Simpleton

      christ leo, don’t you ever get tired of being a bitter whiny vagina? **** you and the cosmos. oh and in case none of your closest friends or family members ever told you, that opinion of you is not only mine, but shared by everyone on the internet.

      • I see you guys don’t just do racism, but misogyny too! You guys are awesome! And ps, I’m hated on the internet, what shall I do now?!?!

      • But just goes to show you, behind pseudonyms and at a keyboard, you’re a bunch of tough guys. But when three “scary” neo-nazi hooligans show up, you all quake in your boots and let it happen. Jesus what fucking losers. Seriously.

        • Lawyer speak

          You seem like a pretty tough guy behind the keyboard as well. When you get your ass beat in public do you turn back into a lawyer schmuck or do you take your beatings like a man ?

          • Lol

            Lol he’s a civil rights attorney. He probably thinks Michael brown was innocent too.

            • Another racist Third Rail member. I’m starting to wonder, are you scared of three hooligans, or do you just agree with them?

          • Fred Mertz

            He’s not hiding behind a keyboard when he uses his real on everything. That’s the exact opposite of hiding, Mr. Anonymous.

            • Balls of steel

              I agree. The guy put his name to his opinions. Right or wrong, whiny or not; his post is miles better than all the anonymous rebuttals.

        • Exiled Blue

          Interesting information, Leo. **** what this other plastics say, the Third Rail is a joke of an organization and massively shames an otherwise amazing project. Hopefully other fans start to take the reins and guide the supporters to figure out what it actually means to “support” a club as opposed to wasting all of their time fighting with each other.

    • Ultra Sensitive

      Does anybody else think that “Chance Michaels” sounds like a male adult film star name?

    • Lol

      Leo I’d tell you to go **** yourself but your dick is too small :/

  • Ron

    In 96 – skinhead issue took place during first thres MetroStars games at Giants Stadium.. . then died out…

    • skinhead

      don’t fucking confuse real skins who are inherently antiracist, with neo nazi boneheads.

    • RASH

      Fucking idiot. The skinheads that CREATED ESU are anti fascist. We beat nazi scum into the ground. Dumb ****, go look around the stands, those antifa skins are still there.

  • Josue ultra

    football its for mans, the ppl who complain about those guy go and watch a broadway show or valet you pussies ! And i dont even know those guys but ill joint them in a heart beat ! They sound more fun then the fucking third rail pussies!
    In football you fight for your team you dont run
    Pussies runs , real hooligans stay they ground and fight it out , like mans ! This 4 guys are awesome heil this guys!

  • Josue ultra

    Listen michael of the third rai he should **** the ****
    Up he aint ahit hes president of noone , most of the nycfc member were red bull
    Fans and thats bullshit a third rail member told
    Me that so **** them all ill talk w that hi hat ************ in peraon and see whats up we are nycfc till
    We died we are the guys who will
    Fight whoever talk down about nycfc not them
    Cus they are pussies so **** thwm
    All michael we will talk soon …!

  • LOco loco

    Josue dont worry we will talk with the third rail and the brown bags this aint **** **** them , we will be in the supporter section till we die and if we get kicked out it will not be a good look ,,,

    • Carlito Coco Coco Garcia Lopez DeJesus

      That’s right! We be gangsta! We gonna go to the games and make it unpleasant for everyone till no one goes and smoke the chuba and sing Carlos Gardel songs and pass wind and you can’t stop us, you Westchester suburbanites

    • Anonymous

      You have to love Google translator !

  • kaetlin

    One social group left out are the beautiful, peacekeeping Blue Ladies. For a women’s group we aren’t nearly as dramatic. Perhaps, we need to focus on unifying for our team instead of devolving into politics. Or if you are a fellow beautiful soccer loving gal (or men who love us) and looking for a pleasant social group, look up The Blue Ladies. Go NYCFC!

    • Paula

      Yes! So glad The Blue Ladies are getting a mention in the comments, if overlooked in the article. We’re a great group of women committed to supporting the team together. I love the different backgrounds, different soccer backgrounds, ages, personalities, AND that we have some members affiliated with each supporter group and other social groups–doesn’t matter, only makes the group more fun and open. Only love for the team matters. It’s a group that’s made my game day so, so much better. Hope we can all work together to give that experience to everyone in the stands. It’s beyond worth it. NYC!

  • zensum

    What I found most surprising about the incident was the lack of a firm high profile public repudiation of this conduct by the Third Rail and really any of the fan clubs (as far as I’ve seen)…

    No question this was conduct by a few showboating fanatics with no connection to NYCFC or the clubs but while no in-game reaction might be understood as simply in-the-moment fear of this bunch one would have imagined that post-game the clubs (and NYCFC) would have made their anti-racist position clear and public…

    To me (admittedly biased RBNY/Metro fan) it smacked of not wanting to get off-message with the impressive feel-good start of NYCFC by even acknowledging the incident…

    Expected more to be honest…

    • Anonymous

      Well no one heard them as far as I could tell. Was in 236 and first I heard of this was on FB a couple of days later. The result has been all SGs coming out openly against it and people organizing online to make sure security kicks any racist chanters out in future matches

  • Ultra Sensitive

    I’m sensitive, but not one to cower; unlike these young men who move to NY, think they’re New Yorkers and root for NYCFC.

  • I don’t know what’s worse, the bitter, pathetic Cosmo fans lack of imagination or the keyboard warrior mentality that prevalent between the three NYC area teams. Just pathetic.

  • Josue ultra

    I know it will not ,
    But **** this i saw the “top boy” of third rail trying to shut ppl up because they were singin “bad things” and it disgusted me , this is football not valet klasses so **** them ill talk to the hight hat guy next match,

  • Josue ultra

    Welcome to america where the tught
    Boys
    Hide nd talk behinge a screen like
    Third rail
    And the ppl who made this article
    Happend ! YOU GUYS WILL NEVER B HOOOLIGANS SO DONT TRY ,see yall in the bleacher section amd in phillie ! Oi oi

    • Anonymous

      ^^watch out, we got a bad ass “hool” over here. keep talking keyboard warrior, well see you in supporters with your ultra boyz

  • Josue ultra

    The third rail start thia article so **** them alll fuckers sissies

  • Josue ultra

    I know the hi hat guy is reading this and we will have a chat together , a peacefull chat …. HOMIE!

  • Josue ultra

    OH !!! By the way they were all red bulls fans before now they are NYCFC????? Howd that work please someone explain it to me….

    • kaetlin

      Im a Rangers fan. So….

  • Death to Communism

    We will fight you limp wristed scum until the new dawn.

  • facebook_axelhernandeznyc

    I mean, their owner does deny the existence of Israel as a state and imprison homosexuals. Follow the leader.

    • Death to Communism

      Homosexual=mental disorder

  • mark

    Oh,the drana…

    • Anonymous

      Drama too.

  • Anonymous

    Can we get back on task here? Horrible, click bait journalism with that headline. Author should reconsider that or accept he’s writing tabloid level ****.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed

  • Ugly incident????

    If thise guys get banned from the stadiun because of this, i bet they wont be happy about that……

  • Peter

    Errrr this club is 5 mins old….why do you have all these faction when there have only been 2 home games….you need to get a life. It takes a very long to build a history. Go to England and attend a proper game with proper fans and see how’s it’s done.

    Have fun when you play the red bulls with all your years of rivalry hahhahahahahahahahaha

    • Anonymous

      You are right peter , europe and south america is another story when it becomes to football, i know trust mwe , and me personally i do have years of rivalry w the GSU from the redbulls , back in 2009 i attended to one of their games and those fuckers accused me of being a hispanic latin skinhead neo nazi as this article says, and i got banned from the stadium since that day i told one of the guys who point at me and calling security that we will see each other again , and look now uh? Afrter long 8 years we gonna see each others faces again ,World goes round , this guy is a redskin and he got two ar15 or M16 crossed tattoed on his stomach,
      By the way the guy KRESPO WAS THERE THAT DAY ,

  • Krexpo

    I know those guys,I’m a rasta bearded guy. If you are going to judge them because you are afraid of ehat you dont know, we are in troubles. I go with them to the games and we support the club in our way,we respect other fans as well, and I’m sure that nobody has a recording of them being racist. We all support nycfc let have a good time in the games and thats it.

  • It’s interesting to see how supporter groups in the U.S. are progressing. I had no idea that a rifts alreayd ran so deep in organizations that have been around for barely a year. It’s encouraging and discouraging at the same time; it’s great to see that kind of passion, but these divisions all seem a little petty. Hopefully, even if they never unify, and rivalry between these groups can bring the best out of them.

  • Anonymous

    So flares or no flares?

  • Anonymous

    If these guys are Battalion 49 as they say, then they aren’t just Ultras, they are actually Neo Nazi Skins. You can see it on their webpage where they’ve liked comments that has the sign off of 14/88 which is the famous 14 words / Heil Hitler. Not an NYCFC but you have to be wise to the methods these groups use to infiltrate, recruit and promote their hate speech. And I know the difference between a Sharp and Nazi.

  • Anonymous

    Stop whining, “waaaah just man up and call security on them”. Bunch of wimpy, hipster football supporters

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  • Service Crew

    Call security? **** that. You’ve got two fists? Batter the **** out of them if you see em. It’s not that hard.

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  • slowleftarm

    Bunch of racists using football as an outlet for their angst caused by their crippling insecurities about their masculinity. These raw chicken eating fake tough guys should be banned from any MLS stadium.

  • Jerry

    I have no clue what anyone is talking about or why this article was written.

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