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Fan with Nazi symbol tattoo removed from Real Salt Lake game

Posted at 10:59 PM, Jul 03, 2024

SANDY, Utah — A fan with a tattoo in the form of a Nazi symbol was removed from a Real Salt Lake home game Thursday in Sandy.

The tattoo featuring the symbol of the SS, the military organization controlled by the Nazis, was seen on the side of the unidentified man's shaved head as he sat behind the RSL team bench at America First Field.

Photos of the man's tattoo first appeared on social media through the X account of Lucas Muller with Wasatch Soccer Sentinel.

After posting the photos, Muller said the man was eventually removed from the stadium where RSL was hosting Houston; a move later confirmed to FOX 13 News by team Vice President of Communications, Trey Fitz-Gerald.

"Once the club was made aware of [the fan's] presence, he was removed by security and police within 10 minutes of that notification," Fitz-Gerald said.

After crime in his past and a few stints in prison, Jonathan Pangburn moved to Utah three-and-a-half years ago to be a part of the Other Side Academy. He recently graduated from there and has been part of volunteer outreach efforts in the community. Pangburn said that part of that past were identities that he isn’t proud of anymore.

"My tattoos affect me and they offend me more than they offend anybody else,” said Pangburn. “I’m filled with regret and shame every time I go into public and insecurity."

He was at Wednesday night's RSL match when security asked him to leave the stadium because of his SS Lightning Bolt tattoo on the side of his head – a symbol of Nazism and white supremacy. A photographer at the match spotted the tattoo and tweeted it out. A lot of people were outraged by the sight of that tattoo.

"My intention is to not try to disperse any negativity or hatred to people, and really, I’m just trying to get out there, just be part of the community and spread my message of change. I know I dropped the ball, I could have covered up my tattoos and wore a hat,” said Pangburn.

RSL told FOX13 that the club and America First Field have a zero-tolerance policy regarding hate speech. So when they found out about someone with a hate symbol tattoo, they removed him within 10 minutes.

“Hate has no place in our sports stadiums and in our celebration of our athletes and teams,” said Marc Levine with the Anti-Defamation League.

He said that this kind of speech - no matter how it was intended - has the power to hurt.

“This is a very haunting and scary thing for people here in the United States today,” said Levine. “That hate has very long shadow and we also know that hateful rhetoric often leads to hateful acts so this can be a very scary thing for someone to see."

Pangburn is in recovery and is also in the process of removing his tattoos – not just this one, but other hate symbols too. "I don’t come from a place of hate,” added Pangburn.

He hopes his story inspires others to change too.