Colorado Rapids fan Teddy Montoya received a letter this week advising him of a lifetime ban from the club’s DSG Stadium. The letter was signed by Kroenke Sports Enterprises employee Peggy Miller.
The letter says that the ban will ‘not be lifted at any point in time.’
Following the receipt of the letter, which gave no reason whatsoever for the ban, Montoya began to make inquiries.
As he sought more answers from the club, a story unraveled that will disturb organised supporter groups on a number of levels.
The reason Montoya was given for his lifetime ban was “verbal assault.”
In other words, the Rapids seems to have banned someone for life from their stadium for swearing.
Were he in a family section, a steward may well have warned him that other spectators were offended and he could be told to sit down and keep quiet.
But Montoya was not in a family section. He was standing in the Rapids Supporters Section, an enclave specifically created by the Colorado club to encourage or at least tolerate the rougher edges of supporter culture.
The facts do not seem to be in dispute. After seeing his side concede a late penalty kick to San Jose Earthquakes, Montoya yelled his opinion of the decision, an opinion he concedes was redolent with expletives.
“I said it was a fucking bullshit call. I said it more than once,” he admitted.
A friend of Montoya’s, Angel Accardi, witnessed the ensuing confrontation:
“Teddy said fuck at a bad call, the security dude was like chill out this is a family friendly venue, then this Gabe guy comes and tells him quit being a dick, I was like you’re telling him not to cuss but calling him a dick?? He looked shocked I told him I want a picture of his badge in case it goes further, he said ‘Go ahead here.’ then put it in my face and then took it away when he seen I was taking one for certain.”
A KSE employee named Austin, on behalf of the ban letter’s author Peggy Miller, called Montoya and told him that his ban was not just for the San Jose incident.
Austin told him that multiple incidents had been recorded in a file on him, a file kept unbeknownst to Montoya.
If the thought of a football club keeping secret files on individual supporters is not startling enough, Montoya observed that the secrecy means he has been charged and found guilty on previous occasions without his knowledge.
He says he was deprived of the right to give evidence or even know there was an accusation. Yet these incidents are permitted to contribute to a situation where he is one F-Bomb away from a life time ban.
“If I had known I was on two strikes in a three strikes and you’re out legal system, yeah .. I might have watched my behaviour more. But no-one told me. It’s like a player is one yellow card from being sent off but he doesn’t know. We’ve got a right to know what is being written about us, especially if it’s being used to judge us.”
Montoya added that the KSE employee, Austin whose surname he didn’t catch, refused to discuss these previous incidents leaving Montoya no idea what he has been accused of, by whom and who delivered the verdict.
They refused to show him the files when he requested them.
The affair certainly has civil liberties implications.
Montayo has been charged, tried and found guilty of these previous incidents with no opportunity to put his case, or defend himself.
The word of his accusers has been taken as fact and their identity hidden. Even the existence of this record of previous offences has been kept from him.
There is not a legal system in any democratic nation where this lack of due process would fly.
Those implications may be felt elsewhere as although the venue may be operated by KSE, it is owned by the municipality Commerce City.
The affair has begun to spread across social media with sites in the Pacific Northwest referencing the initial story on Rapids fansite Burgundy Wave.
One poster there wrote:
“I want to be clear and state that this is a very sad situation, but there’s got to be something else to this story…lifetime bans don’t simply occur just because someone verbally assaulted a stadium official.”
Austin told Montoya that he can have a discussion with DSG Park Senior Director of Venue Operations Allison Hamilton about lifting the ban, which seems to directly contradict the letter, making this story even more puzzling.
However Montoya was also told that Ms Hamilton was out of the office on Friday, and he should not expect to hear back from her until next week.
As Montoya points out, this may suit Ms Hamilton’s schedule but not his:
“We play Portland Timbers on Saturday. I have a lot of friends in the Timbers Army. It’s a game I really look forward to. I’m gutted that I’ll miss this one.”
A Rapids spokesman confirmed the existence of the files but told us:
“I dont want to comment on the specifics of one person’s file but yes we do keep files on fan incidents.”
Montoya will regret the ban. His side beat the Portland Timbers 3-0.