New on the scene, the Plastics SG is here to support their soccer clubs and make sure women and the LGBTQ community are supported by Major League Soccer.
The job of every supporters’ group in soccer is to passionately support their respective clubs. But, what about when the mission of a supporters’ group is much more important than just that? The Plastics SG is about so much more than just soccer and BGN caught up with co-founder Meredith Miklasz to discuss the new movement. “Our mission is to make MLS safer and more inclusive for women and the LGBTQ community,” Miklasz explained. “We want to inspire other women and queer supporters to take up space within their supporters’ communities, start their own supporters’ groups, and empower themselves to build within their communities and begin to fix all of the problems we have all faced. The bottom line is that we need to work together to build. We deserve equal respect as supporters, we deserve safety, and we deserve to be taken seriously.”
“The Plastics name is essentially taking back the insult of being “plastic” or fake supporters –an insult usually directed at supporters like us.”
While the Plastics are focused on making things better for women and the LGBTQ community, this is not an “anti-men club” by any means. Meredith said, “Cishet men who are aligned with our values and mission are absolutely welcome to be our allies as long as they uphold what we stand for and hold other men in their supporters’ communities accountable.” She adds, “There are a few cishet allies in Chicago who actively encouraged me and inspired me to go forth with the Plastics and creating this space for women and queer people, especially in Chicago.”
What exactly brought the Plastics SG into existence? “The Plastics SG began because of three things: shared experiences of what it’s like to be a woman and queer supporter in MLS, spite, and a joke about being judged for always getting dolled up before matches and watch parties,” Miklasz said. “I had tweeted ‘I’m going to start an SG called The Plastics and the only qualification for joining is you have to take longer than 45 minutes to get ready for a match or watch party.’ My close friend and co-founder, Katherine Tucker (a supporter of Real Salt Lake), reached out to me after my joke got a little attention on Twitter.
Tucker realized it could be more than just a simple tweet from a friend. “She thought we could build on it and make a community for supporters like us in MLS. We made social media accounts later that day, then watched as our follower count skyrocketed. Apparently, others felt the same as us and there was a need for something like The Plastics in MLS. We quickly realized we had tapped into something special,” Meredith recalled.
That reaction across social media has been very impressive to watch. Debuting their Twitter account just last month, they already have over 900 followers. Miksalz said, “The response to us was immediate and huge. Although it was mostly inspiring and empowering, the massive response was a bit disheartening –so many women and LGBTQ supporters have felt alienated, excluded, ignored, and even attacked and harassed within their communities. It’s sad that MLS has existed for 25 years and yet we don’t have more woman- and queer-run supporters groups and still feel so unsafe among our fellow supporters.”
Some people that would become key figures in the Plastics got in touch during those early days. Meredith said, “We had three of our incredible co-moderators reach out almost immediately upon launching: Anna Dally (an MNUFC supporter and member of the Dark Glitterati who does all of our incredible graphic design work and so much brainstorming), Valeria Tapia (an LAFC supporter who is one of the most passionate, incredible supporters I have ever encountered –she keeps us motivated and inspired), and Nicole Hack (a Chicago Fire supporter like me who founded CF97 Sirens and L134, served as the first woman chair of S8C and the Chicago Fire ISA board who has a wealth of experience). The five of us have made an amazing team so far and we could not do this without their help, voices, ideas, support, and passion! We love watching The Plastics grow across MLS and will do everything in our power to keep building community.”
That community includes isn’t simply tied to the Plastics. “In terms of supporters groups, I have to give a shout out to The Dark Glitterati, an MNUFC SG. They were us before we ever existed, focusing on supporting women and LGBTQ members as well as being completely fabulous,” Meredith said. “We are eager to see more groups like The Dark Glitterati and us sprout up across the league! A supporters group that has personally inspired me are Black Fires, the black SG for the Chicago Fire. They may have started small, but what they’ve built over the past few years is absolutely incredible and their work inspires me every day. We have each other’s backs in Chicago as SGs focused on more marginalized members of our supporters’ community and that means a lot to me.”
She added, “As for foundations and nonprofits, I can only speak for myself. The issue I am most focused on is the issue of sex workers’ rights and decriminalization. A few organizations I support are SWOP, SWOP-Chicago, SWOP Behind Bars, and Support Ho(se). I also love the work that Chicago Community Bail Fund, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Trans Lifeline all do. The Plastics are deeply rooted in activism and mutual aid and plan to use our platform to promote the issues close to us. Soccer and sports as a whole are political, period. Human rights and equality are non-negotiable for us. That may alienate others from joining our movement, but if you aren’t willing to listen to us and understand the problems we face, you are part of the problem.”
There are a lot of individuals that clearly fall in line with the Plastics SG and their passion for human rights and equality, but they don’t have a full count of members yet because of MLS being delayed. Meredith said, “We were very much looking forward to seeing our members meet up on match days and tag us in photos to get a better idea! However, our Slack community is overflowing and our members are always discussing things there. We are hosting our first Zoom meeting aka The Plastics Slumber Party on Saturday, so we are looking forward to seeing how many Plastics join in!”
We’ve been so busy working behind the scenes that we forgot to yell at everyone about this.
Come hang out at #ThePlasticsSG Slumber Party on Zoom at 7pm CST on Saturday night! 💜
The link will he posted in our Slack channel around 5pm CST. If you’re not in Slack, please DM us. pic.twitter.com/6yz6Z59QIL
— The Plastics SG (@ThePlastics_SG) April 9, 2020
“As for Chicago, we have about 10 members and are an officially registered supporters’ group with the Chicago Fire, as well as Section 8 Chicago. I look forward to working with both organizations and our supporters in Chicago to make our community a better place for all of us.”
What if you want to establish a chapter of the Plastics SG but don’t live in a city where they are already present? “As for forming your own chapter in your own city, you will most likely have to go through your club’s FO to form an official supporters group. It depends on the city and the club –everyone does things differently we’ve learned! We are actually working on providing resources to our members on how to do that! As of right now, we consider ourselves a collective and a movement league-wide, with the exception of Chicago where all the t’s have been crossed and i’s dotted in terms of registration.”
No matter where you are in the country, match-day fashion is definitely something that the Plastics SG don’t shy away from. Meredith said that the fashion for members of the Plastics is wide-ranging and diverse with some preferring ball gowns and others a buzzcut, kit, and jeans. “We firmly believe that every supporter should be allowed to dress and express themselves aesthetically in whatever manner makes them feel comfortable and fabulous,” she said. As a co-founder of the group that embraces fashion and style, I put Meredith on the spot to name the top three color schemes in MLS. She answered, “My personal top three color schemes in MLS are going to get me canceled by the entire Chicago Fire community, but here goes: 1) LAFC 2) Columbus Crew 3) ATLUTD…Great, now I have to go into hiding! Chicago Fire’s red and white color scheme would easily be number one, but alas, it has been changed to something I cannot abide by.”
While COVID-19 has put soccer and the world on hold, the Plastics SG have taken that time to help build out their social media, an upcoming podcast, and their official website. The podcast and site should be live today and you should stay tuned to their Twitter for all of the latest updates. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram. Just like the talented women at Switch the Pitch, I am excited to welcome the Plastics SG as they continue to diversify the representation across the soccer culture here in the United States.