Lack of vaccine mandate keeps some Loons fans away from Allianz Field

Minnesota United hosted its biggest regular-season game of the year on Sunday, but the crowd at Allianz Field didn’t have a correlated playoff-like atmosphere.

When state health guidelines allow it, the Loons almost always have capacity crowds in excess of 19,600 at home games in St. Paul, but on Sunday, there were patches of empty seats in the stadium, with an announced attendance of 19,027 for the 3-1 loss to Colorado Rapids.

And the robust soundtrack of cheering and chants emanating from the Wonderwall supporters sections in the stadium’s south end had its volume turned down.

Members in some of MNUFC’s supporters groups said earlier this week they planned to stay away from the stadium as a sign of opposition to the club not instituting a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for those attending home games.

The Dark Clouds’ message Monday was looked at as if it were a boycott of games; they clarified it Wednesday. “We did not intend for our statement to be interpreted as an ultimatum-driven boycott of matches,” they wrote. “… Any fan who feels comfortable attending should do so without feeling like they’re crossing a picket line.”

MNUFC has supported vaccinations, masking and social distancing as part of the local health guidelines set out during the pandemic, but like other professional teams in Minnesota, they have not mandated vaccinations (or a proof of a negative tests) before fans enter venues.

“We understand the team’s position that this is a difficult set of circumstances to navigate,” the Dark Clouds said. “We believe that the team wants to find a way to implement safety mechanisms for the benefit of its fans.”

On Thursday, Los Angeles FC said it would join a short list of MLS clubs to have a vaccination mandate for games, and some vocal Minnesota supporters took that news as an opportunity to drive home their point that MNUFC should do the same.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber told the Pioneer Press on Tuesday that the league works with individual clubs’ responses to the pandemic “in a very linear way.”

“We’ve said from the beginning of the pandemic through the bubble, getting back to our markets, getting through the 2020 season, getting back into our markets in ’21, we will adapt to local health guidelines,” Garber said Tuesday. “The guidelines that are in place here in the city and state are the ones the club is following, and that is in accordance with league policy.”

The most obvious change in the game-day experience Sunday was the absence of the Thunderwall, the drumming group who provide a steady beat throughout games and the heavy bass underscoring chants.

“It brings us no joy to announce we will be omitting percussion for the remainder of the season until a vaccine, mask, or COVID test mandate is instated at @allianzfield,” they tweeted Tuesday.

The Thunderwall’s home is in the middle of the Wonderwall, the south end’s standing-only sections, which weren’t at capacity Sunday, nor were other sections throughout the stadium.

Loons midfielder Ethan Finlay said the fans in the stands were loud and engaged in the game. “But we didn’t give them enough to cheer about, to be honest,” Finlay said. “If it was quieter than normal, that was probably a little bit on us.”

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