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New York Red Bulls fans are demanding harsher punishment for a player who made racist remarks directed at an opponent.
Three supporter groups — the Viking Army (VA), Empire Supporters Club and Torcida 96 — staged a walkout before the club’s game against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. They planned the event as a protest for the handling of star player Dante Vanzier, who admitted to using racist language in last week’s game against San Jose.
Vanzier received a six-game suspension for the incident. Vanzier will also have to undergo “league-mandated training and education sessions.”
But the protestors say that’s not good enough.
Many fans called for the club to drop Vanzier and to fire coach Gerhard Struber. This move, they said, would send a message that racism won’t be tolerated.
Fans chanted “Fire Struber” before exiting the stadium.
Red Bulls Supporters Protest for Harsher Punishment for Racism
Empire Supporters Club board member Natalie Lazo told The Daily Mail the decision to stage a walkout was tough but necessary.
“It’s bigger, it’s bigger than the game that we all love to watch,” Lazo said. “It hurts to do this, it hurts to turn your back on a team that has given you so much over the years.”
Another board member, Steve Ferrezza, said the protest was a joint effort.
“All three groups had the same idea to walk out,” Ferrezza said. “We made sure that we were keeping the same messaging on everything. But we just all knew, independent of each other, that we couldn’t just stand by and continue supporting the club in the stands like we normally do.”
In a joint statement, the fan groups also called for a boycott of concessions and merchandise. Instead of spending money at the stadium, they asked for fans to donate to a non-profit called Black Players for Change.
The groups say they will continue to protest until their “conditions are met” or until the organization makes “meaningful and acceptable changes.”