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 Harbeer Sandhu

Mere Existence of Palestine Deemed a “Threatening Racial Slur” by the [parent corporation of the] Houston Dynamo Organization

Mere Existence of Palestine Deemed a “Threatening Racial Slur” by the [parent corporation of the] Houston Dynamo Organization
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Apparently, soccer fans are very nationalistic.  It is not uncommon for soccer fans to bring their national flag to a game where their national team is not even playing. In this spirit, a Palestinian-American woman named Buthayna Hammad brought her Palestinian flag to last Sunday’s Honduras vs Israel match at BBVA Compass Stadium.  Fifteen minutes into the game, Nathan Buchanan, head of security at the stadium, removed her from her seat, surrounded her with four Houston Police officers and three additional stadium security personnel, and prohibited her from returning to her seat until she surrendered the “racist” flag. What makes the flag “racist?”  We’ll get to that, but first let’s hear the lady’s side of the story:

On June 1st, BBVA Compass stadium was host to a “friendly” soccer match between Honduras and Israel. Both countries have the same national colors and a similar look to their flags. I am a big fan of futbol and I went eagerly to the match with my alt family from Honduras. I wore a Honduras jersey and was eager to cheer on this team, dressed to represent Honduras. To represent my own heritage as a Palestinian-American, I also brought my Palestinian flag. I made sure my flag was allowed (based on the size, etc.) and I was all ready to go. For the first 15 minutes of the match I stood up and cheered and stomped my feet with the rest of the crowd chanting “HON-DU-RAS” and waving my Palestinian flag, my colors vibrant and loud against a sea of blue and white…and apparently also racist. I was told I had to sit down, which I did, only to be told to get back up again and follow the manager of security away from the stadium seats and into the concession area. I followed, and there waiting for me were three more BBVA security personnel and four police officers. When I asked them what was wrong, the manager of security, Nathan Buchanan, told me I am not allowed to carry this flag because it implies a “racial slur” and it is in BBVA Compass Stadium violation. I asked him to show me evidence of his accusations and asked him how my flag, a part of my identity as a Palestinian-American, implies a racial slur. He could not answer whether he did not know or could not articulate why he was ordered to remove my flag and me from my seat. I was getting very emotional at this point, I had my flag wrapped around my neck like a scarf, and he said he would take my flag and “check it in” for me, that I was not permitted to return to my seat until I surrendered my flag. The Israeli government has banned Palestinians from hanging their flags outside their home, and arrests the occupants of the home for having it on display on their own land. Every day, in Occupied Palestine, Palestinians are denied entry to neighboring villages, to schools or their family’s home and in many cases to hospitals thanks to Israel’s apartheid state. Yes “apartheid,” that word implies racism, yet my flag implies a racial slur? I asked him several times if I could go back to my seat and he would spread his arms out to create a blockade with his body and his arms so I could not pass. “This is private property,” he said. I told him I paid for a ticket to enter. I could not keep my eyes from gathering tears, but forced myself from letting them fall. “What country are we in again?” I asked. “Just because Israel is playing a match, does that mean you should treat me this way? Because of my Palestinian identity? I am a U.S. Citizen!” I have attended many soccer matches, many of which at the Dynamo stadium, and I have worn a different national jersey every time. Why was I pulled away that day? Who ordered this singling-out and on what grounds? When I asked him if he would feel comfortable with his actions once my treatment became public, he offered a compromise which was that I could keep my flag as long as I did not wave it. The first half was nearly over; they were extended three minutes when I was finally able to return to my seat. I had spent over 15 minutes defending myself from being bullied. I missed the first half because I waved a Palestinian flag at an international match in my hometown. I am proud and honored to be an American, to be able to enjoy the civil liberties that people in many countries are not afforded, but I would have never thought that the influence of an Israeli soccer team on U.S. soil would compromise our most basic liberties.

I asked BBVA Compass Stadium to clarify their flag policy, to explain how a flag could be “racist.”  (I suppose you could say that all flags are “racist,” but still, why single out this one?)  This is what Houston Dynamo [parent corporation] spokesperson Gina Rotolo had to say:

The decision to not allow the Palestinian flag to be displayed during the game was based on the sole intention of maintaining the safety of those in attendance. The flag bearer was instigating the crowd, and we felt it was important to diffuse a potentially volatile situation as emotions began to escalate.

Of course safety comes first, so I asked Ms. Rotolo how exactly was Hammad  “instigating the crowd?” Did she threaten anybody or called for violence? Rotolo replied:

This patron instigated the crowd by waving the Palestinian flag in front of Israeli supporters.  Given that her actions caused emotions to escalate, the appropriate course of action, in our eyes, was to ask her to please refrain from waving the flag.

So…there you have it.  “This patron instigated the crowd by waving the Palestinian flag in front of Israeli supporters.” It is now considered “racist” for an American of Palestinian descent to wave her flag at fans of the Israeli soccer team.  The First Amendment can be suspended in a stadium built with taxpayer money because some Israeli soccer fans might be moved to violence by the mere sight of the Palestinian flag.  The good people of the Houston Dynamo Organization think that it is “racist” to merely remind Israeli soccer fans that Palestine exists. I am trying to imagine what the complaint sounded like.  “Excuse me, Mr. Buchanan, that flag over there is really pissing me off–causing emotional distress–and I might have to hurt the lady holding it so you better get four cops to impound that flag or else I’m going to beat her up and it will be all her fault.”


Rotolo did not answer my questions about who complained, nor would she clarify the stadium policy on flags or how this flag violates that policy. She did not answer questions about which other flags are banned. According to Hammad, Honduras fans were shouting “faggots” and “motherfuckers” at Israel fans, and a fight between an Israel fan and a Honduras fan was going on just a few rows behind her, at the very time that she was removed from her seat…yet she was the one singled out for “instigating violence.”  Go figure.   [UPDATE: A previous version of this story implied that the head of security at BBVA Compass Stadium, Nathan Buchanan, reports to the Dynamo Organization. This is incorrect. Mr. Buchanan, in fact, reports the the Dynamo's parent corporation, the Anschutz Entertainment Group.  My apologies. -HS]

143 Responses to Mere Existence of Palestine Deemed a “Threatening Racial Slur” by the [parent corporation of the] Houston Dynamo Organization

  1. Not one of the Sheeple June 15, 2014 at 5:11 am

    She is an American and has every right as an American in America, she should Sue and get a Kosher Lawyer to throw it in their Face.

    And as far as the Palestinian Issue..the only Jews or Israelites in what is now called Israel are the Palestinians !



    and another thing for the Sheeple, you don’t get NAZI from “The National Socialist German Workers’ Party” it comes from AshkeNazi !

  2. Firas June 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    She’s my cousin and I’m proud of her!

  3. Matt June 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    It’s obvious what happened here. Some overly sensitive Americans took the troll bait and called the cops on a woman waiving a Palestinian flag. There are more mature ways to handle non-violent activists, and I would think ignoring them is the best bet, since they probably want to be hassled by authority figures for the sake of attention. Shame on everybody for blowing this nonsense out of proportion. I think making a grandstand about your flag is silly, but calling the cops is sillier.
    I somehow assume that the security gaurds are just mindlessly doing their jobs and have NO idea why they’re kicking the woman out besides the fact that there were complaints. I’d say that maybe some pro-Israeli people need to stop freaking out about small things, but on the flip side, there are BDS activists making stinks about hummus, and want to boycott “culture” of Israel which is pretty racist.

    Honestly I would ignore a Palestinian flag at a football game. A lot of people probably assume it’s a political statement, and it probably would be if the flag was being waved by a typical American college student, but it’s not a political statement if it’s just being held by an actual Palestinian who just really likes the flag, and also football games. So one way or the other, it’s not a big deal. I’d prefer that nobody called the cops on this woman, but I’d also prefer that nobody write an article that implies some sort of grandiose international conspiracy to oppress Palestinians at a sports event.

  4. Happy June 10, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Why are people responding here about how this girl is a hero? Or about this being an issue of free speech? Or how Israel is evil?
    The Israeli government wasn’t there at the game… She was just waving her flag and screaming at people that went to a game to watch a game!! In fact, I don’t think she went to the game to see the game… Lol!! That’s pretty pathetic.. She went to a game to scream at the fans of the Israeli team… Who does that??
    And as far as freedom of speech, yes she has the right to drape her flag or wave it… But what if she starts a fight?? I can almost guarantee to all of you that she screened some inflammatory things towards the crowd… At what point do we dicotomise between the safe use of freedom of speech and the abuse, or scapegoat of using freedom of speech to start a fight?

    • Anonymous June 12, 2014 at 3:50 am

      EXCUSE ME? This woman went to the soccer game because she has as much of a right to attend as you do. She payed for her own ticket, and sat with her friends. She shouted “Honduras”, and that is all. I find it pathetic that you would think she went to a game just to shout at other fans enjoying the sport.
      And since when does politics have to influence sports culture? People attend games to have fun and cheer on their teams, not to make people sign petitions and be racist.

      • American June 15, 2014 at 5:29 am

        She is an American and they need to prove other cases they took flags away from anyone else.

        I would bet if Germany was playing Honduras and someone had a Rothschilds 6 Pointed Hexagram Israeli Flag, they would have offered box seats and free beverages

  5. Dan June 10, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    How clueless and brainwashed are you idiots?

    “Indigenous people” You realize that the arabs were brought there by the british to build the place.

    This dumb woman was trying to start a fight and she should have been kicked out of the stadium. Typical bs propaganda you uneducated people love to digest to make your boring white lives meaningful. Go visit Gaza and see what happens to you. Hamas will happily welcome you with a hug between two rocks

  6. Jack Nelson June 10, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I’m Anglo-American, born in Boston, Massachusetts and I have been a U.S. citizen all my life.

    Give me a couple of Palestinian flags next time, and I’ll stand next to that courageous gal and wave ‘em for her. Right along with her. This Buthayna Hammad is more of an American than most of us born here could ever hope to be. She seems to know her heritage in her adopted country.

    Our real threat is the huge numbers of human sponges coming across our southern border who’ll continue to press for more tax-and-spend so they can get on the damned dole! And 200+ million zombies who shamefully vote for the same thing.

    This is the United States of America and we have the right to be whatever we are, whatever religion or nationality we are, and to support it as fervently as we wish. Somebody up in the Houston Police Department needs to strip some badges off of some dudes, take their guns and their handcuffs back, and give ‘em a taste of what it is to compete in the private sector for a job!! Do Houston a tremendous favor! Moreover, there is NO legal precedent for any kind of a dole in the United States. But having a blue uniform and handcuffs and a badge and a gun is exactly that — an entitlement program. Plus a license for bigotry and all kinds of crap. We’ve got too many unqualified $ 50,000-a-year bullies, bigots and human menaces running around. Maybe they can be trained to construct homes along the Rio Grande?

  7. Joe White June 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Bring a north korea flag to a South Korean Game.. bring an al queda flag to a USA / France game…stupidity and meant to inflame… this is no different… pals were not playing.. noted, article is full of misleading lies…. in any case, it is the flag of terrorist organizations plo and hammas….

  8. Shrijit Koirala June 9, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    That is a total discrimination against the Palestinian woman. I’d love to see her file a lawsuit against the people who thought she was racist for bringing her national flag to the game. That was an act of total discrimination. And stopping her was so utterly stupid. All of them who stopped her from getting back in her seat should either be suspended or should be relieved of their duties because that was a direct violation of the first ammendment by the so called ‘law protectors’. If they cannot respect her freedom, probably they don’t deserve to hold their respective position as well.

  9. Justin June 9, 2014 at 11:47 am

    IF,SOCIALIST Israel wanted peace, it would FLOOD Concentration Camp GAZA with food and healthy economic activity. Did America launch massive assaults and shoot Black American Women and Children dead in the streets or use Jet Fighters and launch Artillery and Missiles into CIVILIAN areas? NO! Israel does so because Israel wants Ethnic Cleansing, NOT peace. Where is Israel’s Recognition of the PALESTINIAN’S RIGHT to EXIST!? Israel demands the Palestinians “repudiate” this and that …Does Israel REPUDIATE the TORAH???? Israel was White RACIST, APARTHEID, South Africa’s ONLY ally, trading weapons, torture techniques, NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY, with them. Today Israel continues Racist APARTHEID with it’s wall. Israel enforces laws that are straight out of Nazi Germany such as Palestinians must have different colored ID cards and license plates, JUST like the yellow stars the Jews WAIL about having to wear. Palestinians have to use separate roads, IDENTICAL to Black OR Whites Only drinking faucets.
    Israel and South Africa were virtually twinned as military allies for Pretoria helped supply Israel militarily in the immediacy of its 1973 setback and Israel came to support apartheid South Africa at the height of sanctions with weaponry and technology – from naval ships and the conversion of supersonic fighter planes to assistance in building six nuclear bombs and the creation of a thriving arms industry. Israel resembles apartheid South Africa at its zenith – even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents and the aggression against neighbouring states.
    Israel just PRETENDS to care about African Americans (but look how Israel treats Blacks at home), so they can STEAL the taxdollars that SHOULD have been repairing schools and infrastructure and providing police protection in the Cities. Year after year BILLIONS of African American Tax dollars buy more APARTHEID-suppression for the NATIVE PEOPLE of PALESTINE instead of improving life for the Black American People who earned those dollars.
    Thu, 26 Aug 2010 20:15 CDT © Jewish Middlesex
    Ethiopian Jewish student – not allowed to study at new school
    Several months ago, a religious school in the illegal Israeli settlement of Immanuel was criticized for segregating white Jewish students from non-white Jewish students in classes. Originally, the school was fined for this policy of racial segregation, because the school was state funded. Now, the Israeli education ministry has agreed with the white parents’ request to allow the school to continue with its racial discrimination under private funding.
    There is no law preventing racial discrimination by priyvate organizations, even schools, in Israel.
    The Israeli court has interpreted these laws to also apply to illegal West bank settlements, like Immanuel, which are located in areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian control. The Palestinian Authority does not allow racial discrimination, but due to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories, it has no authority over the area in question. 74 white girls who have been studying in a building next to the school will now be allowed to study in whites-only classrooms that are privately funded, as their parents claim they do not want their girls to study in racially-mixed classrooms.

    Every night is “crystal night” for non jews in Israel. Brutal, racist, expansionist, Jim Crow, apartheid Israel, is far worse than apartheid South Africa ever was. Even the racist South Africans, never used Apache gunships, F16s, and white phosphorous.

    ““The state of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people. And therefore, in order to bolster the status of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I intend to submit a basic law that will anchor this status.” Benjamin Netenyahu 5/4/2014
    According to the SPLC & ADL an organization is a hate group if it has
    “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people.
    Well …………. Judaism HATES ALL NON-Jews.
    The World should insist Israel live by the standards Israel demands of others. Be judged as Ye judge others. If Israel wants to be recognized, Israel must recognize the EQUALITY and HUMANITY of ALL People. Quit calling NON-Jews SHISKA, GOYIM, GENTILE. If Israel wants Hamas to ‘repudiate’ their charter, Israel must REPUDIATE their manual of hate, the TORAH, which openly proclaims that all ‘gentiles’ should be ‘Hewers of wood, and bearers of water’ …….. for Israel.
    Israel must recognize the Native People’s RIGHT to a Palestinian state.
    Israel REFUSES to sign the Non Proliferation Treay or open It’s NUKES to inspection, Israel should have the exact same sanctions that were put on Iran.

    • Harbeer Sandhu June 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Hi. That’s a lot of text that’s unrelated to the issue at hand, but thanks for visiting our site and reading this article.

  10. Tim June 9, 2014 at 12:41 am

    I go to a church where at times dancers will wave Israeli flags to demonstrate there support of Israel; however, they are naive about the unfair treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis whose actions of apartheid should be condemned instead of supported by Christians. I’m tempted to join the dancers some day and wave a Palestinian flag. Maybe I will get evicted!

    • Harbeer Sandhu June 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      Let’s take care not to conflate the state of Israel with all its people. There are people in Israel who disagree with state policies toward its indigenous Arab population, and we should take care not to paint them with the same broad brush as those believe that the Nazi holocaust gives them license to behave as brutal colonizers.

      (I am not saying you did that, just that I, personally, as the author of this article, would like to make that distinction. The Israeli people are not the same as the Israeli state, and fans of the Israeli soccer team are another thing altogether [likely from the US, in this instance].)

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