To our readers,
Yesterday the Chicago Fire issued a one-game suspension to Section 8, prohibiting most organized supporter activities for Saturday’s game against the Red Bulls. They also sent a wave of notices to individual supporters informing them that their season tickets were canceled and that they were permanently banned from Toyota Park.
Earlier this summer we criticized the Fire front office for their permanent ban of Sector Latino. We had hoped that the wave of bad press and fan outrage— to say nothing of lost revenue— would bring the front office to their senses. Not only has this not borne out, but the FO has doubled down and declared open hostilities on all supporters.
The front office’s continued antagonism toward its most loyal fans and customers, their thin-skinned and often peevish response to journalists— or indeed anyone— who criticize them, and their seeming inability to make good faith efforts at fielding a competitive team have all culminated in a crisis that is as astonishing as it was preventable. It’s unclear what the endgame for the front office is here, and front office officials have demonstrated that they’re not interested in explaining themselves— not to the media, and certainly not to fans.
Various conspiracy theories aside, the front office is making a bet that they can alienate their most dedicated fans and committed local media without experiencing meaningful consequences— in lost revenue, in diminished hype, or in reputational damage to the organization. The time has come to call their bluff.
To that end: Hot Time In Old Town will not be providing coverage of tomorrow’s home match against the New York Red Bulls.
We at Hot Time bear no illusions about the influence of our boycott. We’ve spent years covering the Fire as outsiders. That distance has made it possible to write about the team we love with a certain degree of distance, allowing us to direct fair criticism at the club without worrying about losing access. That distance, however, also means that the front office isn’t likely to take our radio silence this weekend as a wake-up call.
But this isn’t about the front office anymore. This is about the fans. This is about what remains of a team and a community when you throw away legal documents and marketing strategies. This is about what makes the Fire more than a business. This is about the soul of a team that used to win, and their place in a long and proud history of Chicago Soccer. This is about a community reeling with heartbreak at the realization that their organizing principle, the team they have supported and defended for decades, doesn’t much care for them anymore. This is about what the Fire used to be, and what they can be again.
We are writers and journalists, but we are also fans. We are filled with an abiding love for this team and this community. But in this moment, we are also filled with shame. And it is in this shame that we now avert our eyes.
James Bridget Gordon
EIC, Hot Time In Old Town