ORLANDO - Things are heating up in the rivalry between Atlanta United and Orlando City, but some fans may have taken things too far. The teams will play in Orlando on Friday.
Atlanta United bought a billboard in Downtown Orlando, which says, “Orlando, we are coming to conquer.”
Fans and coaches agree that the billboard is all fun, but there is a difference between a friendly rivalry and comments that could be crossing the line.
A post from an apparent Atlanta fan, who believes his team will win, said to think of the game as “Pulse part 2,” referencing the terror attack that killed 49 people in June 2016.
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"It seems very stupid to me to trivialize something that had such a dramatic impact on the community," Orlando City fan AJ Lash said.
One of Orlando City’s supporter groups tweeted a screenshot of the message to bring it to light. Supporters said there are other references to the Pulse attack in groups on Facebook.
Posts that appear to be from a closed group include a Valentine's Day car with Orlando City star Cyle Larin saying, "You make my heart pulse like an AR-15." Another post recreated a first person shooter game with go-go dancers and Omar Matteen as the shooter.
Orlando City's coach, who has not seen the posts, disagreed with comparing a match to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
"There's a line. There should always be a line. At the end of the day, it's a sport. This is not life or death," Coach Jason Kreis said.
Atlanta United sent a statement which said:
As has always been our policy, Atlanta United strongly condemns the use of offensive or derogatory language under any circumstances. Our club is committed to providing a positive and inclusive environment for all fans. Insensitive or disrespectful comments are well outside the bounds of friendly competition, are harmful to the spirit of the game and have no place in our sport or our communities.
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