A use of the controversial Pepe the Frog by a political action committee prompted Circuit of Americas, whose chairman is majority owner of USL’s Austin Bold FC, to withdraw its support of an Austin MLS stadium petition.
The group IndyAustin has been conducting a petition to force a vote on a proposed new MLS stadium at McKalla Place. Currently, the city is in negotiations with current Columbus Crew SC investor-operator Anthony Precourt about a project that calls for a new stadium to open at the city-owned site in 2021 (rendering shown above).
A potential Austin MLS squad has been viewed in some circles as a competitor to the Bold, a club backed by chairman Bobby Epstein that will launch next year in USL Championship (as Division II USL will soon be known) in a new stadium at Circuit of Americas. Circuit of Americas had recently announced that it was supporting IndyAustin’s petition drive, but later pulled its support after the controversial Pepe the Frog was featured in a video criticizing Austin mayor and MLS stadium project proponent Steve Adler. Pepe the Frog was originally created as a comic strip character in 2005 and later emerged as an Internet meme, but has since become increasingly associated as an online symbol for alt-right and white nationalist groups. (Its use in this context received considerable attention from the national press during the 2016 Presidential Campaign.)
After discovering its use in a video criticizing Adler, who is Jewish, Circuit of Americas withdrew its support of IndyAustin. In a statement, Epstein–who had donated $24,000 to IndyAustin–condemned the group’s use of the symbol and stated that the financial support was being withdrawn. More form KXAN:
“I and everyone associated with COTA vehemently and unequivocally oppose the use of any and all hate speech against any person, group, or belief and will not tolerate this attack, whether it was intentional or unintentional,” wrote Epstein, “We have therefore withdrawn all financial support from IndyAustin.”
IndyAustin re-edited the video to remove Pepe, issuing an apology and saying that did not initially understand the meaning behind the symbol and that the clip was taken from another online video. Adler, for his part, said he was “troubled” by the group’s use of Pepe. From KXAN:
Mayor Adler is Jewish. This controversy comes days after a gunman shot and killed 11 in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“I am troubled that a symbol used in anti-Semitic communications by members of the alt-right throughout the United States would now appear in an Austin campaign,” Mayor Adler said in a statement from his campaign, “And I’d like to know why it was featured in a video produced by a PAC that is attacking me.”
The group IndyAustin issued an apology on Monday saying it did not know the meaning behind the symbol and changed the video.
“We honestly thought it was a cartoon of a pea smoking a cigar, taken from a video online, not ours,” wrote the group in a press release,” again, our apologies.”
Rendering courtesy Precourt Sports Ventures.
RELATED STORIES: New Crew Stadium Needed to Keep Club in Columbus?; Owners of Potential Crew Stadium Site Willing to Discuss Sale; Browns Owners Negotiating to Keep Crew in Columbus; Negotiations Over Austin MLS Stadium Agreement Continue; Austin, PSV Making Progress on Austin MLS Stadium Contract; Precourt Sports Ventures Unveils Austin FC Badge; Travis County Could Challenge Tax-Exempt Status of Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; Austin Approves McKalla Place Lease for New MLS Stadium; On Eve of Austin MLS Vote, Mark Wahlberg Expresses Interest in Crew; Why the Austin MLS Decision Matters; Austin MLS Stadium Vote Delayed; Councilmembers Call for Revised Austin MLS Stadium Terms; Save The Crew Unveils Proposed Columbus Crew SC Stadium; McKalla Place Development Proposals Unveiled; City Council Holds Special Meeting on Austin MLS Stadium Plan; Mayor Backs Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; Revised Austin MLS Stadium Proposal Terms Released; City Council Could Discuss Austin MLS Stadium Proposal Next Week; Group Eyes Public Vote; Austin MLS Stadium Information Session to be Held This Week; Austin City Council Passes McKalla Place Resolutions; Affordable Housing Added to Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; Thursday Important Day for Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; PSV: Columbus Crew SC Move to Austin Could be Jeopardized by McKalla Resolution; Austin City Council Debates McKalla Place MLS Stadium Pitch; Offer Made for McKalla Place Development; Austin MLS Stadium Plans Unveiled; New Information Surfacing on Austin MLS Stadium Pitch; Who Should Pay for Light Rail at New Austin MLS Stadium?; Site Concept Unveiled for Austin MLS Stadium at McKalla Place; Judge Sets 90-Day Toll in Columbus Crew SC Lawsuit