American Outlaws launches AO Watch

Last month, we ran a piece by Noah Davis about the American Outlaws supporters’ group and some of the growing pains facing the rapidly expanding organization. Specifically, the piece focused on a bro-ish, frat culture that, on more than a few occasions, has resulted in allegations of discrimination and harassment at Outlaws gatherings and events.

Since then there have been conversations, both on and offline, about the Outlaws experience. Davis’s piece resonated with some people; others felt that the characterizations set forth in the piece weren’t representative. Perspectives ran the spectrum, as one would expect, but there was enough of a reaction from people who had experienced an unsavory underbelly of the Outlaws for the organization to at least start asking questions about its future and the steps it might take to foster as safe and inclusive an experience as possible.

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Today, the group released a statement on its website announcing AO Watch, “a series of measures to ensure the American Outlaws continues to build the world’s most inclusive supporters group. A group free of discrimination, racism, sexism, and homophobia.”

AO Watch aims to provide a more tolerant and inclusive environment largely by articulating protocols for fans to turn to if they experience violations of the group’s codes of conduct. The initiative focuses on more active monitoring at events; a more robust set of reporting tools, including an online submission form and a number to call or text; publicizing AO Watch information at points of sale and events; and detailing how the reporting process works, from the submission of a complaint through a final determination.

These are all laudable steps in the right direction. But rules, just like Codes of Conduct, are only a part of the solution. Rules are meaningless without an interest in enforcement and mechanisms to do so. Rules are also meaningless if group members have no interest in self-policing. So, time will tell if AO Watch can effectively wrap its hands around some of the issues facing its expanding member base. But being proactive and keeping the conversation publicly alive, when it could’ve easily gone silent, is a positive sign that the Outlaws leadership has the right intentions.

FYI, USA vs. Mexico is on Wednesday in San Antonio. Do what you will with that information.