The MLS Players Association has criticized the league for its handling of Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard after an altercation with fans that lead to his three-game suspension.
Howard was suspended and fined for foul language due to the altercation with fans during the Rapids’ 3-1 loss away to Sporting KC at Children’s Mercy Park on April 9.
While the union accepted Howard’s fault in the matter, it does not believe the league has properly enforced its standards toward fan behavior, saying in a statement the goalkeeper was subjected to abusive language that was not punished.
"We are disappointed with the league's handling of the situation involving the Kansas City fans and Tim Howard," the statement said. "Following the incidents, which involved a verbal exchange with a fan, as well as an altercation after the game, Tim acknowledged his culpability and responsibility for his role. However, he is the only one involved to do so.
“Although the Players Union and Tim acknowledge that his conduct was inappropriate, there is further context that should not be lost.
“MLS has a detailed Fan Code of Conduct in place under which fans are expected to be respectful to each other and to players, and are prohibited from engaging in disorderly behavior, including obscene or abusive language.
"The fans involved repeatedly, routinely and openly violated that Code of Conduct, without any repercussions. It is thus not surprising that there was a reaction from the player."
Statement on Tim Howard Disciplinary Decision: "Tim takes responsibility for his actions, but MLS needs to do the same..." pic.twitter.com/uQMTV6Hk9O— MLS Players Union (@MLSPlayersUnion) April 15, 2017
The statement also went into greater detail about the incident in question, suggesting Howard could have been in serious danger and security was in no position to intervene.
"The security provided by the league and Sporting Kansas City was wholly inadequate to protect players and fans. 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. That is unacceptable behavior anywhere and is not something that 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."
Howard will be eligible to return to the Rapids on May 5 when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps, at home.