'Screw the Crew?' Past Precourt beef resurfaces and tensions run high ahead of Austin FC's next match
Austin FC was hated by many soccer fans long before ground broke at McKalla Place, and that resentment persists for many Columbus Crew fans as their club heads to Austin's Q2 Stadium on Sunday.
As 20,500 Verde fans filed into their first home match last Saturday, a small plane flew overhead with the slogan "PRECOURT IS A SNAKE" trailing behind it in the wind. Columbus had taken the first jab at Austin FC and, more specifically, Austin FC owner (and previous Columbus Crew SC owner) Anthony Precourt.
Precourt meets his former team once again on Sunday, and the Columbus fanbase is less than happy to see him on his brand-new stadium's soil.
Meanwhile, Austin FC fans are thrilled that Precourt brought the city its long-awaited first major league sports franchise. Austin FC fans Hernan Gonzalez and Bryan Saldana, who also run fan reaction YouTube channel WeAreAustinTV, said they are prepared to defend the owner who brought an MLS team to their city and sow a rivalry on their home field. "We're not going to take it," Gonzalez said.
Here's some backstory on how tensions began and continue before it all boils over at Q2 Stadium.
Columbus Crew SC was one of the first 10 teams to be awarded when MLS formed in 1996, and by 1999 the Home Field at Ohio Stadium was transformed to Crew Stadium.
Columbus Crew's opening match at Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999. (Crew Stadium/Twitter)
"(It's a) historic stadium, historic club," Gonzalez said. "The fans have been there for years... People (can say) their grandpa was a Crew fan."
Precourt, meanwhile, came onto the scene when Precourt Sports Ventures purchased the club in 2013. Under his leadership, the franchise hired captain Gregg Berhalter and found their footing.
The hostility all boils down to an infamous exit clause tucked neatly away in Precourt's contract with Columbus. Precourt had apparently been thinking of Austin since his earliest days with the club. According to the clause, Precourt could not move the MLS' original team to any other city—except for Austin, Texas.
Precourt didn't make a move until 2017. As the club struggled with an older stadium and falling attendance, Precourt asked Columbus for a new publicly-funded stadium. When the city disagreed, Precourt began to revisit the exit clause, which remained unknown to die-hard fans. The idea emerged to relocate the Crew to Austin. Columbus fans were outraged, and a retaliatory "Save the Crew" movement was born.
Precourt didn't move the historic club; after a lawsuit, he was granted a new club in Austin by MLS Commissioner Don Garber. The fledgling Austin FC was born, and Saldana said it was a win-win situation for both clubs.
Anthony Precourt, sporting director Claudio Reyna and head coach Josh Wolff at an Austin FC event in 2019. (Austin FC/Twitter)
"People can say whatever they want to say, but I feel like everybody ended up winning ," Saldana said. "They kept their team, they got a new stadium, (and) we got our team."
Columbus didn't see it that way. Save The Crew members signed petitions, pleaded with Austin residents to curb progress and continued to speak out against the perceived betrayal.
The sentiment clearly lingers today. When asked to comment on the rivalry and upcoming match, Columbus Crew supporters' group Murderers' Row had just one thing to say: "There is no rivalry, just hatred to Anthony Precourt."
Austin FC vs. Columbus Crew
Austin FC's enemies aren't just in Columbus. Who doesn't want a shiny new stadium, a sense of camaraderie and a new professional team to cheer for at a local bar?
Other contenders for the new MLS expansion, including San Antonio, aren't quite cheering for Austin FC. However, thousands of fans, from part-owner Matthew McConaughey to the loud-and-proud supporters' section, are undeterred by the hate.
Matthew McConaughey + his bongo = Perfect Austin FC home opener pic.twitter.com/2x7PXK8I7R
— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) June 20, 2021
Gonzalez said he understands where Crew fans are coming from, but it's unfair to be angry at the city and team that were just happy to get a major league team in the first place. "We never asked for this," Gonzalez said. "Precourt brought something that we've always wanted to have."
Instead of bowing down, both Gonzalez and Saldana say they embrace the rivalry. "As far as leaning into this rivalry, we absolutely will not accept the banner that was flown and the hatred that we get from Columbus fans. We want to give that energy back to them."
Austin fans are already gaining a reputation as an enthusiastic, peace-loving community in alignment with general Austin culture, but Gonzalez and Saldana are repping "Screw the Crew" shirts come Sunday. "We do not want to be the pushovers of the MLS," Gonzalez said.
Introducing our first Tee shirt drop “Screw The Crew"🔩💚⚽️🌳
Who's ready for next weeks matchup against Colombus Crew? Purchase link in the Bio #AustinFc #Verde pic.twitter.com/1z2MvgdLC1
— DEXOTIC (@dexoticshop) June 21, 2021
The match is high-stakes both on and off the pitch: Austin FC is still scoreless at Q2 Stadium, and Columbus fans will remember forever if they win the first goal at Q2 Stadium. "It would be a huge blow to the fan base," Gonzalez said. "If they score that first goal, they're going to have that against Austin FC forever."
The Yellow and Verde will meet—not mingle—at Q2 Stadium at 7 p.m. on Sunday as Austin FC takes on the Columbus Crew for their second home match.
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The Food and Drug Administration will consider Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine application for emergency use authorization in 5-to-11-year-olds on Tuesday. The vaccine will likely be available to kids starting next week.
With 2.9 million Texas children in this age group, state health officials say this is a "big factor" in reducing the virality of COVID. At a Monday press conference, the Texas Department of State Health Services released info on the rollout efforts of the vaccine for children.
Here are some of the answers to your questions.
When and where will it be available?St. David's Healthcare staff unpack the first few shipments of its initial supply of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.(St. David's Healthcare)
Assuming the FDA approves this version of the Pfizer vaccine this week, vaccines will start shipping out almost immediately with the first vaccines for children likely available next week.
DSHS has already put in an order of vaccines under the federal government's "pre-order prior to launch" program.
COVID vaccine providers will begin receiving those first shipments 1-5 days after the approval. After Monday night, DSHS will have put in three different orders for vaccines. The second shipment will arrive 3-7 days after approval and the third shipment will take place 5-9 days after the approval.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention will meet on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 to discuss best practices for administration, allowing for the first shots to be administered after.
The state will be allocated 1.3 million doses across 814 providers in 120 counties. Individual county allocations have not been released but each county got to send a request for how many doses they may need. Federal retail pharmacies, such as H-E-B and Walgreens, are getting their own shipments.
The health department advises using its vaccine finder tool to find the nearest vaccine provider near you.
How is this version of the vaccine different than the first one?Abbott says COVID vaccine to be available to other groups by end of March
The COVID vaccine for 5-11-year-olds is one-third of the dosage of the current vaccine available to those 12 years of age and older.
It is being identified as the orange cap vaccine, unlike the current purple cap. The purple cap vaccine cannot be administered to younger kids, according to the state health department.
And like the current vaccine, it is 95% effective. The first and second doses are the same and will be advised to be taken 21 days apart.
What are the side effects for children?
During clinical trials, it was reported that some kids in this age group felt pain at the injection site, fatigue and headaches.
The data submitted to the FDA shows no serious complications, such as cases of myocarditis inflammation of the heart muscle, or pericarditis, inflammation of the outer lining of the heart—rare complications that have been reported among young boys and men receiving the vaccine in other trials.
How will this affect herd immunity?
With so many children across the state, DSHS said "we need to have as many people vaccinated as possible."
State health officials said the herd immunity threshold is still being looked into, but with 3 million children soon to be able to get the vaccine, it will be a big factor in reducing the viral load in the state.
"Until we're able to add all the children, we'll see a bigger wave in stamping down the pandemic," DSHS' Imelda Garcia said during the conference.
Of those 12 and older, 72% are fully vaccinated in Travis County as of Monday.
I'm not sure if my child needs this vaccine. Why should I have them get it?
DSHS says this vaccine is important for young kids because it will protect the older population and others around them as well as themselves. The department says to ask experts and doctors questions if you are hesitant so you can be confident with your decision.
Tesla is officially in with the big guns.
After Hertz Global Holdings Inc. placed an order of 100,000 Teslas—the biggest single electric car purchase ever—Tesla officially hit the $1 trillion market cap for the first time.
The trillion-dollar club has some big names, including Apple, Facebook and Amazon. With the purchase, Tesla's stock shot up to more than $1,045 a share by midday Monday, a new record after topping $900 a share just a day earlier.
The $4.2 billion deal is the biggest purchase of electric vehicles to date. Hertz said it will use the Teslas to round out their fleet of electric rental cars by 2022 just months after filing for bankruptcy protection.
The news came just days after Tesla followed its leader, CEO Elon Musk, and relocated its headquarters to Austin. Austin's Giga Texas plant, which is currently finishing construction, is set to begin producing Cybertruck models at the end of 2022 and will begin "volume production" by 2023, Musk said in the meeting.
Musk celebrated the stock market victory on Twitter.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 25, 2021
Shortly after moving to Austin, Tesla saw its best quarter yet with Q3 revenue coming in at $13.76 billion—up from $8.77 billion this time last year. It was the electric car companies' ninth straight profitable quarter.
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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
While Northwest Arkansas isn't exactly looking to be a breakfast taco-loving, live music-having tech hub, it is branding itself as the Austin of yesteryear. And who better to come to the quickly-growing paradise than Austinites themselves?
OZ Brands is the latest NW Arkansas organization to entice Austin residents to pack up and make the move. The company, which is named after the area's Ozark Mountains, promotes travel, trails and art within the region and is owned by Runway, a NW Arkansas business investment group. Runway is headed by Walmart founder Sam Walton's grandsons, Steuart and Tom Walton.
OZ is targeting Austinites with the "One Way Out" giveaway, a program that will give at least 10 Austinites a one-way Allegiant ticket from Austin to the Northwest Arkansas National Airport.
"Fall is the perfect time to visit and explore the natural beauty of the Ozarks," the program's website reads. "Why just one way, because once you're here, you won't want to leave!"
Why swap cosmopolitan Austin for NW Arkansas' forest-filled hideaway? Just like other local programs including the Greater Bentonville Chamber of Commerce and the NW Arkansas Council, OZ Brands is looking to capitalize on priced-out Austinites who may not be pleased with the region's unprecedented growth.
"It's okay, Austin, we get it. You're tired of the tourists, the traffic, the hassle," the website says, escalating to an all-caps message reading, "YOU NEED A BREAK, AND WE ARE HERE TO GIVE IT TO YOU."
OZ is far from the first program to offer financial incentives to move to the area. Ads for Greater Bentonville began cropping up on the feeds of Austinites weeks ago as they promoted their annual tech summit, while the NW Arkansas Council rolled out similar ads. Instead of "Austin City Limits," the organizations promised "Bentonville City Limitless." If you "wish you'd bought in Austin 10 years ago," the Council promises that the area is perfect for you.
The Greater Bentonville Chamber of Commerce and NW Arkansas Council have both made moves to bring Austinites to the region. (Greater Bentonville)
Like similar programs in the past, One Way Out "is an opportunity for Austinites who no longer feel at home in their own city to see for themselves the value and qualities of Northwest Arkansas ... It's for those living in the Texas city who feel the growing pains of Austin expanding beyond its limits," the company said in a press release.
The region has recently experienced substantial growth, moving to fourth on the U.S. News and World Report's list of 150 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021-2022 and enjoying an influx of businesses, tech workers and startups tired of the West Coast's crowds and priciness. And with a great arts and culture scene, a lower cost of living and even a financial incentive to move to the area, talents like film producer Kristin Mann decided it was time to swap Austin for sunnier skies in Arkansas.
"I love (Austin) how it is now, don't get me wrong, but I've always fantasized about what it might have been like before it really exploded," Mann said. "And I feel like that's similar here...There's something really unique about this town, and it feels like there's something really exciting happening here."
The contest ends Oct. 29 and is open to anyone 18 and older that lives within 50 miles of Austin. Winners must book their trip within four months of the competition and finish the trip by May 1, 2022.
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