HARRISON, New Jersey — The New York Red Bulls might have lost the battle with their second-ever loss to rival New York City F.C. on Saturday afternoon, but their fans might have won the war of words, using a shirt reminiscent of the famed "Catholics v. The Convicts" from college football lore.
The animosity toward the Red Bulls, who entered the league in 1996 as the MetroStars, and an NYCFC team in their third year as a franchise is continuing to brew.
Saturday’s result likely built up the animosity and hostility between these two geographic rivals. Two weeks ago, the Red Bulls knocked City out of the U.S. Open Cup in the fourth round in a match that saw some heated tensions between the two fanbases. Fan violence has sadly been a part of this derby since its inception.
Reports circulated of NYCFC fans throwing bottles and smoke bombs at Red Bulls supporters tailgating before the Open Cup match. On that same day, a video showed a City fan attempting to spray paint the side of a parking garage outside Red Bull Arena with what appeared to be the tagging of his team’s emblem.
Photos also showed the designated supporters' section for NYCFC’s groups at Red Bull Arena having several chairs that appeared to be intentionally broken.
In the past, City fans have had struggles with police and security outside their Yankee Stadium home and there were some well-publicized arrests when some fans traveled down to Orlando for the season opener.
Red Bulls fans have had to deal with NYCFC negatively labeling their club as the “New Jersey Red Bulls” due to the location of their soccer-specific stadium. The Empire Supporters Club came up with this clever T-shirt for Saturday’s match that both embraced the "Jersey" label while simultaneously poking fun at NYCFC supporters for their frequent run-ins with the law:
— Kristian Dyer (@KristianRDyer) June 24, 2017
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The messaging of "Jersey v. Jailbirds" bears a striking similarity to the Notre Dame college football T-shirts from 1988, made to celebrate the No. 2 Fighting Irish hosting the Miami Hurricanes. Notre Dame, steeped in a proud Catholic tradition was attempting to portray the righteousness of their gridiron cause against a Miami side known for recruiting edgy players who often pushed boundaries on and off the field.