Section 8 Chicago’s annual general meeting will be held tomorrow afternoon. As part of the proceedings, fans will vote on a new ISA board.
Nicole Hack, a second-generation Fire fan and long-time contributor to ISA operations, is running unopposed for Chairperson. In a sense, her being the presumptive new S8C Chair is a formalization of all the work she’s done for the organization, and the broader community of Fire fans, for years. She’ll be assuming the role during what is, to put it mildly, a difficult time for the community and the club.
We sat down with Nicole ahead of tomorrow’s AGM to get her sense of where the ISA and the community are at.
Hot Time In Old Town: So I think most of our readers know your story as a Fire fan, and what this team means to you and your family. I’d like to talk about your background with Section 8. When did you first get involved with the ISA? What initially motivated you to become active on the political and organizational side of things?
Nicole Hack: As far as my involvement with S8C is concerned, I first connected myself to the community when my family starting attending games regularly in 2004 at Soldier Field. I’d sit one half with my family and the other half I’d stand in the supporters’ end.
In the first few years I attended games, supporters like Brandon Kitchens, Liam Murtaugh, Diana McNally, Dan Parry, Peter Wilt, Mike Ditka’s Street Crew, and countless others brought me in - they invited my sister and me to our first meetings, to watch parties at The Globe Pub, and they explained the origins of supporters’ culture in Chicago to us and what they were doing to make it thrive. Those earlier experiences are what continue to inspire me today. I want supporters’ culture in Chicago to evolve, but I also think it’s important that we hold onto our traditions and history - I don’t want the hard work and dedication of our past to get left behind. Incorporating new passionate ideas with our past is essential to our growth.
I was motivated to become more actively involved on the political and organizational side of S8C without even necessarily realizing it during these first few years of regularly supporting the club (2004-06). When Peter Wilt was fired, it was the first time I witnessed a community stand up for something they believed in. It was a sad moment, but an empowering one. Being an active participant with S8C evolved from there for me.
HTIOT: You served as Vice-Chair through what ended up being, in many respects, a very difficult 2018 season. What would you say was your biggest accomplishment? What was one thing you learned during that year? What would you do differently, if you could?
NH: 2018 was a season like no other. I think my biggest accomplishment was continuing to facilitate dialogue and support the community during a very disheartening period of the club’s history. I was also able to use my historical knowledge of the team and the supporters to provide context to our dialogues with the FO. (Joel Piktel was a huge help in this regard too, which I am grateful for.)
Overall, I am proud of myself, the 2018 ISA board, and supporters throughout the Chicago Fire community for facing these hardships, not giving up, and for standing up for something we believe in.
To add to that, I wouldn’t say that I just learned this in 2018, but 2018 was a reminder that we’re a powerful community and we’re certainly the most powerful when stand united, working together.
HTIOT: You’re running unopposed for Chair in this weekend’s election. What would you say your biggest challenges will be over the next year?
NH: Supporters culture has been on the decline for years , mostly due to the poor results on the field over the years, specifically in the 2018 season, the mistreatment of Sector Latino, Section 101, and supporters as a whole.
Because of this, the biggest challenge the 2019 ISA board will face is resolving supporters’ issues (specifically #Free101) with the FO and keeping the community engaged and united.
HTIOT: How do you see Section 8’s place in the wider community of MLS supporters? Is the ISA still a strong political and cultural presence in this community?
NH: S8C are still regarded as leaders by the Independent Supporters’ Council (ISC) in many areas including charity fundraising and legal organization. Former Chair of S8C, Scott Greene, is the current president of the ISC. All of this speaks volumes and illustrates that we are still one of the more active and recognized supporters’ communities in the league, especially with the hardships we’ve faced.
Additionally, S8C established the standard for new supporters’ associations and supporters’ groups and often share advice for legal or organizational groundwork for those communities.
HTIOT: Zooming out a bit, you’ve been outspoken on issues of gender equality in supporter culture, in Chicago and across the country. What would you say is the biggest challenge the culture needs to overcome in order to change and grow in that respect?
NH: Gender equality in soccer has been a major focus of mine both on and off the playing field for years. I think in general, with the current political climate, that respect and equality for women is a focal point.
This year, at times, I faced challenges being one of two women on a board of eight. I would ask that future men on the board, men in our community, and beyond really listen, observe, and put themselves in our shoes. Support from our peers, especially male peers is paramount.
This year, a male supporter pointed out to me that he had noticed how unified a group of us (females) had become, which I took as a compliment. Of course, in some situations, we don’t agree, but what matters is that we’ll stand up for one another. We’ve become allied with one another more than in past years, and we are constantly encouraging one another to have a voice in a room of majority men. I am forever thankful for the support of these women in our community, especially this year - Lauren Morris, Carri Alldredge, Maud Squiers, Moria Dailey Nestmann, Meredith Miklasz, Betsy Tomszak, and Sara Corona - to name a few.
Still, further establishing and supporting groups like CF97 Sirens, Cider Cunts, MLS Female, Women United FC, Chicago Local 134, and This Fan Girl (while the latter being predominantly English/UK based) will help in overcoming gender inequality in supporter culture.
A lot more can be touched upon here, but I think that overall this is a good starting point.