When I wrote this article two weeks ago, I did not expect to be writing such a quick follow-up, much less one which hits so close to home, but here we are. If you aren’t a Colorado Rapids fan, you probably haven’t heard of #KSEOut, a new movement in line with #RedBullOut or #HauptmanOut, with the goal to get the ownership group of the Colorado Rapids to sell the team. The group was kind enough to answer my request for an interview.
WUFC: How was this movement born?
KSEOut: It’s hard to say exactly as everyone’s frustration with the way the Rapids are run has built at different times and at different rates. The core group behind this goes to games so you could say the discussions started at DSG Park, at the tailgates and in the bars at viewing parties. That said, if you look online, there is a huge amount of dissatisfaction with the team right now that has allowed us to rally people to the cause. There are now large numbers of Rapids fans who have arrived at the conclusion that the only way this club will progress is if there is real change. This means that the chances of a movement like this organizing and getting large numbers of fans involved is significantly higher than even a year ago.
WUFC: How long have you been Rapids fan(s)? Did you ever imagine it would come to this?
KSEOut: The core group of fans behind this are all season ticket holders, holding their seats for durations varying from 2 to 15 years. While things were not perfect in 2010 when the Rapids won the MLS Cup, forming a protest group to push for the owner to sell the team would have had people looking at you as if you were crazy. So no, we didn’t imagine it would ever come to this.
WUFC: How long have you been kicking around this idea?
KSEOut: It’s been a firm idea ever since an anonymous person flew a plane over DSG Park at the end of the 2014 season with the message calling for KSE and Rapids president Tim Hinchey to go. Quite frankly, we’re amazed nobody else beat us to it.
WUFC: What was the tipping point?
KSEOut: The tipping point was the ‘Fan Forum’ [audio link here -K] held on Tuesday August 11th. Even the way this was organized (a tuesday lunchtime conference call, lasting exactly one hour) shows how out of touch the current management is with dealing with the team’s supporters. Apparently we now can’t have a face to face meeting somewhere that, within reason, lasts for as long as the fans have questions. It appears that everything has to super controlled by the Rapids Front Office, particularly if there is the possibility of dissent.
However it was the responses from Tim Hinchey, Paul Bravo and Pablo Mastroeni that really angered people as it revealed that on field success (i.e. making the play-offs) was to quote Bravo ‘only a small piece of [the end of season] evaluation’. It is clear that no matter how bad the Rapids team performs, the current ownership and management cannot be relied upon to make the necessary changes that will turn things around.
It is also apparent that the Rapids Front Office doesn’t think anything is substantially wrong, despite clear evidence both on the field (bottom of the MLS West standings) and off the field (empty seats) to the contrary.
WUFC: How far are you willing to go with this if no changes are made?
KSEOut: The initial aim will be to raise awareness of the Rapids plight on a local, national and hopefully international level. If no changes are forthcoming from KSE, a natural avenue is the MLS league office in New York who must be concerned about the bottom teams such as the Rapids by now. Remember that the league will take action in extreme cases. They stepped in and bought the only team that was consistently worse than us (Chivas USA) last year, disbanded them and awarded a new franchise for the LA area to different owners.
The other option if no changes are made is to target the team’s sponsors and partners to let them know they are associating their brands with a deeply flawed organization. The idea of formally recommending Rapids fans boycott the goods & services of these companies is also being considered.
WUFC: What are the flaws in the front office?
KSEOut: The Rapids Front Office has a history of trying to crush legitimate protest and dissent. Reports from 2008, when fans last protested to get coach Fernando Clavijo fired, speak of even mild banners such as ‘Time’s up for Clavijo‘ being confiscated by security at DSG Park and all banners being subject to inspection prior to entry. More recently, Rapids SG who made Colorado flags on poles for the south stands in accordance with the DSG Park Fan Guide and has reported repeated issues in getting an item that is ‘allowed’ into the stadium. While some of this can be attributed to general disorganization and lack of communication, it does appear that flags and banners are under special scrutiny and will continue to be closely monitored by security. We naturally expect this situation to remain unchanged.
In October last year the Rapids beat writer, Chris Bianchi, was fired after he posted a tweet on his personal Twitter account that simply read ‘Say it once, say it again: Front office deserves much more blame than coaching staff.’ The result was an email exchange between Bianchi andTim Hinchey, which ended in Hinchey stating ‘we’re done here.’ Shortly afterwards, Bianchi was informed by mlssoccer.com that his services were no longer required. This was the most high profile of a number of incidents where Tim Hinchey has threatened media & fans with a revoking of access to players or club personnel should they dare to say anything critical about the team or the Front Office. In February 2013, one of the supporters behind this movement wrote to Tim Hinchey asking why the Rapids don’t hold their events at the Denver soccer bars which still continue to support the club by promoting its games & buying multiple season tickets for their staff. Hinchey replied, refuting the suggestion & signing off by saying he would no longer talk to that particular supporter about that or any other subjects again. For good measure (and presumably as an attempt to discredit the supporter in question) Hinchey also included the entire Front Office senior management level plus other supporter group leaders in his reply. The supporter made a few subsequent approaches to Hinchey to try and reconcile the situation but was either rebuffed or ignored completely.
We naturally don’t expect anyone who works for Rapids Front Office or the wider KSE organization to be thrilled about this movement. We are also expecting some sort of pushback, most likely a public attempt to discredit us backed up by private communications with people the Front Office identifies as supportive of KSE Out. Unfortunately, we cannot rule out being the target of more malicious actions either.
WUFC: Are you aware of Newcastle United fans’ movement AshleyOut.com and is KSE Out inspired by it? What about #RedBullOut? What do you think these groups can learn from each other?
KSEOut: We are aware of those two protest movements also the #HauptmanOut movement which started a few weeks ago in response to the similar problems at Chicago Fire. Our website, www.kseout.com, is inspired by AshleyOut.com as we liked the thoughtful, measured tone and the way that they set out the reasons why Mike Ashley should give up control of Newcastle Utd. For a protest movement to get mainstream support, it’s got to come across as being run by regular, well adjusted fans, rather than people who can’t control themselves.
#RedBullOut is also another movement we’ve looked at. Their issues now mainly stem from the way the team is being run off the field by a hugely corporate owner. One thing they’ve done is a great job with funding and producing billboards for display in New York / New Jersey, that can’t have been an easy thing to do for a small organization.
In addition we also took inspiration from the ‘Green & Gold’ movement at Man Utd a few years ago where fans took to wearing the original colors of Newton Heath, Utd’s forerunner club. We liked this as it allowed fans to express their dissatisfaction 24/7 rather than only at organized demonstrations in the stadium.
In short there’s plenty of things these movements can learn from each other and we do plan to talk to as many of them as possible to share ideas, advice and information.
WUFC: What is your one request from Rapids fans?
KSEOut: We’d like all Rapids fans to start wearing green to games, tailgates, viewing bars, soccer practices and any other occasion you would normally wear Rapids gear. We’d like the color green, which is the Rapids original color from 1996 and therefore pre-KSE, to signify that a fan supports the team on the field, supports the players, but feels that the current ownership & management needs to change if the club is ever to reach its full potential.
After that, we encourage all fans to get involved in any organized protests that may happen in the next few months, provide they are carried out in a safe & legal manner.
Thank you so much to the wonderful people of KSEOut for their quick responses to me. For more information on their movement, you can visit their website or Twitter. For more information on other fan protest movements, check out our article last week on the contract of fanhood.