Orlando City SC has been a big hit during its inaugural campaign, drawing sizable, enthusiastic crowds to the Citrus Bowl as MLS soccer returned to the state of Florida for the first time since 2001. But some of these fans may be taking things a little too far.
As told by Iliana Limon Romero of the Orlando Sentinel, some fans have complained that Iron Lion Firm and the Ruckus — two supporter groups that are officially recognized by the team — commonly use the word “retarded” in their chants, offending those with special-needs relatives.
“It’s pretty denigrating and hurtful,” Amy Van Bergen, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida, told Romero. “It has been an issue for the past year.”
Yahoo’s Eric Adelson says the “retarded” chants were heard as recently as Saturday’s home match against Columbus. This isn’t good optics for a team whose most famous player — Brazilian icon Kaka — is a global ambassador for the Special Olympics.
According to a WordPress blog purportedly about the Iron Lion Firm (it’s been disavowed by the group’s president), the offending song is part of the Iron Lion Firm’s repertoire of chants.
But Iron Lion Firm President Rodrigo Guillen says the group has since changed “retarded” to “disregarded,” and the group issued a statement on its Facebook page.
It’s not the first time Iron Lion Firm and the Ruckus have run into trouble. Last year, both groups were suspended for two months after an incident in which four fans were arrested for disorderly intoxication and battery of a law enforcement officer during a game in Tampa. Both groups were reinstated by the team after agreeing to sign the MLS code of conduct.
According to Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel, being an officially recognized supporters group “allows the ILF to attend games with banners, flags, drums and flares.”