'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#Verdepic.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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Communities are rallying together after an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Funds from organizations all around the state–including from Austin’s own Los Verdes–are being raised to support families affected by the tragedy. Here's how you can help.
If you are looking for ways to help, please consider donating blood. Your donation can help ensure we have supplies immediately available for the victims of this tragic shooting.— University Health (@UnivHealthSA) May 24, 2022
Our donor room has availability the rest of the week. Please schedule online: https://t.co/0F2lKDqYzO
Austin-area residents can donate blood with We Are Blood.
South Texas Blood & Tissue was able to send a total of 25 units of blood both to the school and local hospitals to support treatment. After an emergency blood drive on Wednesday, the blood center is hosting a Memorial Day blood drive and should have appointments opening the following week.
The largest blood transfuser in the San Antonio area, the University Health System, is also asking members of the community to donate blood. Appointments may be scarce due to demand.
The Los Verdes community is heartbroken at today's senseless act of gun violence in Uvalde that ended 15 lives too early. We are currently raising funds to support the families who lost loved ones today, and you can join by donating here. https://t.co/52L1ZtbSND— Los Verdes (@LosVerdesATX) May 24, 2022
There is a growing list of verified fundraisers through GoFundMe, where almost $2 million has been raised so far for families and victims of the tragedy.
- The VictimsFirst fundraiser is raising $2 million to provide “100% of what is collected” to the victims’ family members.
- Austin-based Los Verdes Supporter Group is raising $100,000 for the families “affected by the horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary.”
- Allison McCullough, the aunt of victim Makenna Lee Elrod, is raising $50,000 for her family.
- The Alithia Ramirez funeral fund is working on raising $8,000 for the young girl’s funeral.
- More are being added by the hour.
An official account with First State Bank has been set up for donations through UCISD to assist the families of this tragedy.— Uvalde CISD (@Uvalde_CISD) May 25, 2022
Please know that the FSB account, is the only verified location to make any monetary donations. No other source is currently recognized. pic.twitter.com/psQb6fD6Ls
Uvalde CISD has opened an account to support families of the victims with the First State Bank of Uvalde. Checks to donate should be made payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund" or through Zelle at email@example.com.
The League of United Latin American Citizens has created a fund for victims, which it says will donate 100% to families and University Health has also organized the Uvalde Victims Relief Fund to help provide care for victims.H-E-B has also donated $500,000 to aid victims and is collecting donations for its Spirit of Giving Fund, which supports philanthropic efforts in the wake of Texas tragedies. Starting Wednesday, shoppers at H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop and Mi Tienda can donate at checkout or online.
By Patrick Svitek
Beto O'Rourke caused a dramatic scene on Wednesday when he angrily confronted Gov. Greg Abbott at his news conference about the Uvalde school shooting, yelling, "This is on you."
After Abbott was done giving his initial remarks, O'Rourke approached the stage and told Abbott he was "doing nothing" to combat gun violence. He said the Uvalde massacre, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults, was "totally predictable."
Some of the Republican officials onstage with Abbott quickly denounced O'Rourke, telling him to go away. Another man onstage used expletives to criticize O'Rourke for interrupting the event. O'Rourke was eventually escorted away amid the unruly scene.
“I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told O'Rourke at one point.
.@BetoORourke just showed up and shook things up. @statesmanpic.twitter.com/Z1FtBwUEdJ
— Luz Moreno-Lozano 🦇 (@LuzMorenoLozano) May 25, 2022