WASHINGTON — Fans and media had to shield their eyes from the sun emanating off the metal doors of D.C. United’s new home stadium — a sharp contrast from the chipping paint of the previous grounds at RFK Stadium.
United welcomed local dignitaries to the official ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at Audi Field. The event opened with a poem.
“In 10 years from now, I don’t know where I will be, but I know wherever I go, I will have soccer — the sport that shatters barriers, embraces diversity. The sport that is very much like my city D.C.,” recited Charity Blackwell, director of writing for DC SCORES, a charity that creates neighborhood teams for kids in need. “We live in times where backgrounds, beliefs, politics can be decisive. Where news can confuse, making communities feel indecisive. But D.C., like soccer, is a space where we are all united.
But not all feel united among the club’s supporter groups — La Barra Brava, District Ultras and Screaming Eagles — who will celebrate the club’s new era Saturday when D.C. United plays its debut match at Audi Field against the Vancouver Whitecaps at 8 p.m. ET.
La Barra Brava will hold a “Stadium for All” protest march to Audi Field from nearby Canal Park before the match. Many District Ultras members — the ones not boycotting the game altogether — will join in as well.
@Barra_Brava @DistrictUltrasX join us Saturday 6:45 Canal Park for the #StadiumForAll Supporters’ March. Join us whether you plan on attending the match or not. #StadiumForAll and not a #StadiumForTheFew pic.twitter.com/HfI5OSemtf
— Barra Brava (@Barra_Brava) July 10, 2018
The march is in response to D.C. United partnering only with the Screaming Eagles. In February, the club announced a strategic partnership with the Screaming Eagle and DC SCORES. The announcement said the Screaming Eagles would “take the lead role to manage all aspects of the club’s supporter culture, including single-game supporter ticket sales for both home and road matches.”
What followed was more than a year of back-and-forth discussions, meetings, boycotted meetings and tension among the three groups — but no resolution.
A breakdown of the supporters groups printed last year in the Washingtonian described La Barra Brava as having Bolivian roots, a drumming, chanting and, at times, ruckus group of 1,600 members.
The Screaming Eagles formed the same year as La Barra Brava and are described as “older, slightly more female and generally tamer than other groups.”
“They are the establishment groups that have been around the whole time,” said District Ultras member Carrik Baugh said, who will join in the ‘Stadium For All’ march. “They sat next to each other at RFK and were quite obviously different from one another.”
The District Ultras are a smaller contingent that split from La Barra Brava in 2010.
Each of the supporters groups ran on a model of ticket resale. United offered lower price tickets in blocks for groups to resell for small profits. This profit allowed supporters groups to pay for necessary items, such as materials for Tifos and tailgates.
D.C. United hadn’t offered too many details why it decided to partner soley with the Screaming Eagles at the new stadium — until Friday, when United President Tom Hunt spoke openly with Washington Post reporter Ryan Bacic, who posted an abridged version of that conversation on Twitter.
“The enlightening thing that came out of yesterday’s interview was that [Hunt] likes that the Eagles give a lot of money to DC SCORES,” Baugh said. “The purpose of the group is to give game-day support for atmosphere. They are not a charity money-maker.”
— 🇭🇷 Ryan Bacic 🇭🇷 (@RyanBacic) July 13, 2018
There will be supporters from La Barra Brava and District Ultras watching the match from the stands, but some others decided not to get tickets and will watch from nearby restaurant and bars.
“Some of us who already had tickets are going to go, but we are not participating in the supporter stands,” Barra Brava Vice President Jay Ian Igiel said, “There will be no flags, banners or drums [from us] in the stadium.”
Baugh said that he and other District Ultras members “want to be around outside the stadium to talk to anyone wondering why we aren’t inside.”
“We normally do marches to the stadium,” Baugh said. “This time, it will be a protest.”