A day after Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard received a three-game ban for a pair of incidents involving Sporting Kansas City fans, the Major League Soccer Players Union shifted some of the blame to the security at Children’s Mercy Park.
In a written statement, the players union called the security at Children’s Mercy Park last weekend “wholly inadequate to protect players and fans.”
A video showed Howard and a Sporting KC fan exchanging profanities during the match Sunday, each of them using the f-word. The fan posted the clip to Twitter.
After the game, Howard was also involved in an altercation with a fan as he was leaving the field. The league referenced both incidents in announcing the three-game suspension Friday.
“As Tim was attempting to leave the field, a fan with alcohol in hand was able to come within two feet of him on field level and aggressively scream obscenities in his face,” the players union statement read. “That is unacceptable behavior anywhere and is not something the players, or anyone, should be subjected to in their workplace.
“Tim takes responsibility for his actions, but MLS needs to do the same and send a clear message that it is committed to creating a safe experience not only for its fans but for its players, too.”
In an interview with The Star on Saturday, Sporting KC president Jake Reid said he was “obviously surprised” by the players union’s response.
“We put safety first and foremost at Children’s Mercy Park,” Reid said. “If we ever felt at any time that safety was a concern, we would have changed a policy or an action a long time ago.
“But in response to this (incident), will we look at all the things we do? Absolutely. But I can tell you it’s something we’ve always taken very seriously. We’re one of five clubs that have a dedicated security team on staff full-time. That should tell you the level of seriousness we take with this stuff at the stadium.”
The players union also criticized the verbal insults Howard received during the game.
“Certainly language is always going to be a concern, and we flag that,” Reid said. “We don’t feel it’s an issue at this point in our venue. It is something we work through if and when it does become a problem.”
Sporting KC won Sunday’s match 3-1. After the final whistle, the national TV cameras caught Howard and Sporting KC striker Dom Dwyer in a heated conversation on the field. Howard is also the No. 1 goalkeeper for the United States men’s national team.
The Rapids released a statement Friday evening after Howard’s suspension and fine were made public.
“Tim Howard made an unfortunate and regrettable mistake for which he is being disciplined by MLS,” the club’s statement read. “While this is out of character for Tim, we do not condone these actions. We accept the league’s decision and look forward to moving past this.”