By Wednesday morning, October 18, a mere 36 hours after the Grant Wahl tweet announcing the team might go to Austin, things were moving fast. There was a sense of urgency to do everything possible as quickly as possible. Twitter had blown up with questions, concerns, appeals, and pleas to help. Hundreds of people, thousands of messages. Who was in charge? Who was going to take the reins and organize what could only be defined as helter-skelter mass chaos and confusion? There was no handbook for how to do this. In the history of sports, never had a community risen to work against such underhanded intention. There was not yet a #SaveTheCrew leadership team trained and prepared to put things in motion. There was no crisis team ready to act. There was no spokesperson stepping up to a podium to address the media.
In times of crisis, leaders emerge. The single portal for communication and rallying point became the #SaveTheCrew Twitter feed which Morgan Hughes had begun. By default, he was immediately looked upon by many as the go-to point of contact. But tweets and responses were coming in so fast, he couldn’t come close to responding to all of them.
As Hughes was trying to manage the chaos and fervor he’d created, others were plotting more practical responses. Murray’s email the previous day was the impetus for a call to mobilize people who could begin steering this unwieldy ship through the storm. He texted Hughes and suggested that they convene a gathering of other supporter group leaders on a conference call that evening.
“The call was a total clusterfuck,” said Murray. “Everybody wanted to do something different. Some people wanted to protest and burn couches. People were angry. They had a lot to get off their chest. It was personal and it was emotional.”
Hughes and Murray pushed back. They knew that reacting emotionally would be the wrong course to take. “That’s what they wanted,” said Hughes. “They wanted us to look bad.” Taking the high road and keeping their response positive took remarkable restraint. It was also an example of exceptional instinct that proved constant throughout the year to come.
Hughes told the group that they needed to stay calm and organized. “I said it’s okay to be upset, but you have to be part of the solution. You don’t have the right to be upset without a solution. They wanted us to look like an angry mob who they could brush off and ignore. But if we stayed calm, organized, and focused, they couldn’t ignore us.”
As leaders of the supporter group, GCGBAG, David and Kelly Foust were on the call. “There were some people who wanted to be really aggressive and raise hell,” said David Foust. “We decided that wasn’t the tone we should take. We needed to be positive. We love the team. We love the community. And we didn’t want the Crew to leave. I like to think Donny Murray and I were the voice of reason. Donny is one of the leaders, very pragmatic, good organizer, very down to earth.”
“The effort to save the Crew was on its way,” said Murray. “We were getting the word out that we were actively doing things. The first thing was to put out a statement. Next was the rally. Third was to begin contacting businesses, sponsors, other clubs’ supporter groups, the league, everyone and anyone.”
After Tom Davis arrived at work Wednesday morning, the idea of building a website continued to stir. Knowing that #SaveTheCrew had become the go-to hashtag on Twitter, he went to GoDaddy and registered http://www.SaveTheCrew.com. He put up a black screen with the words in yellow, Save the Crew, and a registration page. “I hadn’t talked with anyone yet,” said Davis. “Heck, I didn’t even know anyone yet.” But he knew of Morgan Hughes and knew that most roads were leading through him. He DM’d Hughes and told him what he’d done and said, ‘Let’s work together on this.’ Hughes was ecstatic. Hughes told Davis to immediately register www.SavedTheCrew.com, too, telling Davis, “We’re going to need it someday.” And they would.
Davis asked him what else he should put on the page. “Here was my fatal flaw,” said Hughes. “I told him, ‘Let’s also put something up so people can order #SaveTheCrew banners. We’ll make the banners and send them to whoever wants one.’ I had no idea what this was going to turn into.”
Between the website, the banners and other materials that were sure to come down the pike, they realized they would need a #SaveTheCrew logo. “Zidar created the logo Wednesday night during the conference call,” said Hughes. “He and I were sitting there during the call, and he cranked out about 12 different designs. I looked over and saw one and said, ‘Set your pencil on fire and don’t draw another one. That’s it.’ And, poof, we had the logo.”
By the end of Wednesday, the site had over 5,000 unique visitors, over 200 banner requests, and over 1,000 people had signed up to help. By Thursday night, the site had over 30,000 unique visitors and 3,000 banner requests. “We had to shut the banner request down,” said Hughes. “But within a couple weeks, we made and shipped every last one. This was on top of everything else going on. We had to go buy rolls of fabric, cut out the pieces, make a #SaveTheCrew stencil, and spray paint them, one at a time. I made 750; Ethan McKinley made over 2,000. We sent them all over the world.”
By Wednesday, social media was busy amplifying the two core messages that Hughes had proclaimed. Website activity was flooded with people asking how they could help. Hughes and the growing STC team knew they had a tiger by the tail and needed to mobilize efforts in a strategic direction to maximize their effectiveness.
Hughes said, “One of the first things we did was put together spreadsheets of the power players, the sponsors, and the owners. And we started peppering them. I got emails from MLS saying, ‘You’ve got to stop this.’ That’s when I knew it was working.”
There was no way of knowing how long this might last, but those who signed up to help were in it to the end. Hughes said, “I remember thinking that at worst, this could last two or three months. It surely would anyone else know, it would continue for the next twelve months.
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