At RFK Stadium, the venue which D.C. United called home for 22 years, visiting supporters would often belt out a chant that made light of the crumbling arena’s structural deficiencies, recited to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down:” “RFK is falling down, falling down, falling down. RFK is falling down…”
The club likely thought it had left those structural issues behind when it moved into Audi Field on Saturday, but before the game even started, United found itself at the center of a freak accident.
Lindsay Simpson, United’s sideline reporter and vice president of marketing and communications, was preparing to appear on NewsChannel8’s pre-game broadcast when she was struck by a large object, which has been referred to both as a “railing” and a “railing cap” by those in attendance. According to Simpson, the incident left her with a concussion.
Multiple sources familiar with the situation spoke with City Paper on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature and potential ramifications of what happened.
Simpson herself tells City Paper the falling object struck her in the side of her head, neck, and shoulder. The item, which can be seen in the photo below, appears to be a large piece of metal. A source familiar with the incident says a first responder at the scene told them it felt like it weighed about 40 pounds.
https://twitter.com/MLSist/status/1019705526546989056First responders quickly treated Simpson at the scene, another source pointed out, and said Simpson left with a “large, red mark” on her neck and shoulder in the moments after being struck. In the days that have followed, Simpson—a former University of Maryland soccer goalie who suffered multiple concussions throughout her career—says she has not been working.
A club official, when reached for comment, expressed concern for Simpson, saying, “We’re one-thousand percent behind her. She is a big part of our team and has been a valuable asset for us for a long time.”
The official’s account suggested that the item that struck Simpson was actually a “composite plastic railing cap” and was not metal. The official also stressed that the incident took place before the stadium gates had opened to the general public. In photos taken of the object, there are fans visible in the background.
Jason Levien, United’s managing partner, appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Monday and was asked about the incident. His response is transcribed below:
So, Kojo let me explain—before we opened the gates to Audi Field, there were some caps on railings. They weren’t actually the railings, they were the caps that go on the railings that hadn’t been drilled in properly, from what I understand. They were one of the last pieces to go on, and a couple of those fell a few hours before the match. And unfortunately one hit Lindsay in the shoulder. She’s doing great, I talked to her yesterday—she’s been a tremendous force of nature for us in the organization and we wish her a speedy recovery. She stayed at the field and watched the match and wanted to be a big part of it because it was such a special day. But that’s one of the things you can’t make up. It’s going to go down in stadium lore. Many years from now we’re going to be talking about that first match and some of the craziness that went on.
While not as widely discussed as they are in the National Football League, concussions have been also been thrust to the forefront in Major League Soccer. United found itself at the center of a concussion-related lawsuit several years ago, which was dismissed, while former United midfielder Chris Rolfe retired in 2017 after a concussion he suffered in 2016 derailed his career. Those incidents, however, took place on the field, while Simpson’s took place off of it.