Free Speech and the MLS Fan: The Revolution’s Situation


Photo by Lorianne DiSabato

As MLS fans, we often fail to realize how lucky we are that our clubs offer us a wide variety of fan experiences.  If we are attending a game with a soccer newcomer or our kids, we can sit in the more traditional American sports seating sections and watch the action from our seats.  If we yearn for a more European hooligan atmosphere, then MLS can provide a passionate, inspired fan section where even the most mild-mannered professional can show their undying support for their club.  The beauty of the fans section is that every team has them: original clubs like DC United provided the roadmap for MLS fandom to the new high-profile groups like the Philadelphia Union.

At times, however, the passion of the fans and club management will clash and the idea of appropriate devotion become murky.  We saw an example this offseason when Toronto FC supporters led a revolt against the team’s (mis)management to encourage them to stop raising prices while failing to put a quality club on the field.  Who owes what to who is an interesting debate.

This weekend, the relationship between New England Revolution management and supporters reached a boiling point.  For a full (but biased) account I recommend the profile on the fan site The Bent Musket as well as accounts on these other sites, but in essence The Fort was told to tone down their swearing during the match.  In particular, management wanted one phrase stopped that the fans chanted at opposing keepers.  As the post recounts, The Fort was slowly cleared out during the match to the point where by the end of the game it was pretty much empty.  Of course any time there are narratives like this, the accounts have to be taken with a grain of salt but it looks like the relationship between the team’s most hardcore fans and the ownership is reaching a straining point supposedly over conduct.  I would also stress details are still emerging, and we will update this account as they emerge.

But an essential question is illustrated by this incident: in the debate was over language and the club asking the supporters to tone it down, who is right? Should a club tell supporters what to chant?  In Europe, it is common for ownership to speak with fan groups and try to prevent offensive chants, but this is primarily in cases of blatantly racist chants.  Swearing is just part of the game; you can’t go to a Serie A match without a referee being called a cuckold or worse.  In England, some of the best chants rained down upon opposing players are much worse than what The Fort yelled at keepers.  Like most sports, soccer is all about passion and the desire to influence opponents by intimidating them, and preventing may be taking away an important part of the game.

Conversely, in a country where soccer is a niche sport, it is important that families and casual fans find a welcoming atmosphere.  So often, non-soccer fans imagine English hooligans as the average soccer fan and look down on attending professional games.  Additionally, practically every American child plays soccer at some point in his life and are perfect marketing targets for any MLS team.  Parents are not going to want to take a child to a game where they can learn new words, so management is conceivably justified in trying to maintain a clean language environment.

So what do you think: are the New England Revolution justified in trying to clean up The Fort’s language?  What obligation does ownership have to creating a “family friendly environment”?

This entry was posted in MLS Talk, New England Revolution and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Free Speech and the MLS Fan: The Revolution’s Situation

  1. Nathan says:

    I was at the game. I am a long-time supporter. We are not worried about the use of language, but rather the heavy-handedness with which it was shut down. Increased enforcement is nothing new to us and frankly we’re tired of security and the police department treating us like animals. The Midnight Riders released an official statement on the matter that would be worth reading as you deviated from what we are trying to rectify.

  2. Rex says:

    Sadly, the once proud franchise of the Revs seems to have fallen on hard times. We have good things to look forward to USA fans, Sunil Gulati will probably distance the USMNT from fans just like in new england. Remember he is an elitist ivy-leager and we ALL are just dumb hooligans to him and will be treated as such.

    • Robert says:

      The last thing NE should do is piss off supporters. 6k in mid-week attendance is this year’s lowest. Of Course, fans will blame the Stanley Cup Finals for that number.

      • risapres says:

        the 6k midweek is not the total of attendees for the midweek bash it was a little over 2.8k an embarrassment!!

  3. Robert says:

    I’m so sick of every argument in the United States being supported by, “Think about the kids”. What ever happened to parenting? If a child hears some offensive language its the parents responsibility to make sure they do not use that type of language. This is reality and the chants could be a lot worse. Lets just be thankful we don’t deal with racist, homophobic chants in this country.

    • dan says:

      agreed 100%

      NE is the saddest club in the country now. I feel bad for the supporters, it’s run by a bunch of idiots that are driving it into the ground.

      • risapres says:

        if they want to ban foul language simply check every car coming into parking lot for liquor and sell no liquor in the stadium! Hypocrisy reigns at The Razor!!!

    • AdamEdg says:

      Great point. For parents that ARE concerned about language and still want to go away, why not sit as far away from the Fort and possible?! That’s what most fans do at most sporting events. It is not that hard to do. Example:
      Parent: Is there a rowdy supporters’ section?
      Ticket guy: Why yes, we call it the Fort. Would you like four seats there?
      Parent: Hell no! Give me seats as far away as possible.
      Ticket guy: Sure thing. The view will be better too.

      See, fairly frickin’ simple. And it’s not like we’re talking about a stadium so full its bursting at the seems with no decent seats to be had.
      Hell, parents of small children routinely sit on the opposite end of the stadium from student sections at high school and college sports. Some of the crap coming from student sections would make the biggest hooligans in England blush. Yet nobody talks about removing the students…

  4. f4denz says:

    It is funny that you mention the kids who play soccer, yes they are ideal targets of teams but you fail to mention that once you get beyond the grade school children into the competitive youth ranks, asshole is often one of the less spicy words heard at matches.

    I am sorry but the real issue isn’t swearing, if it were then the team would have made examples all around the stadium. So this was about one of two things, issues larger than swearing with their supporter groups (almost every team has ongoing issues with their groups) or swearing in unison. I believe it was the latter, so saying asshole isn’t the problem it is when 100 plus people do it at the same time.

    I think legally they will lose, because this is clearly selective enforcement of their rules which in and of themselves are probably illegal and un-enforceable.

  5. josh from houston says:

    if people are worried about the language from supporters groups then don’t sit around supporters groups. Easy as that

    • Avocat says:

      Well, the problem is that the YSA is the one naughty chant that carries everywhere–even on TV. Again, obvious issues with enforcement, but fans would be smart to drop this juvenile nonsense. (How about “You suck, [name of keeper]?)

      • I Call 'Bullsh*t" says:

        I can’t believe you guys are agreeing. “Juvenile Nonsense” is what BUILT the fan experience around the world. You MUST be from Swells-ley. Grow a set and let the rogues do their thing. Stop being such utter pusseis. I’ll bet your wives and girlfriends drive you to the games.

        • lysander says:

          It is a lame chant anyhow. But the point is, there are things to stand up for in life. A silly chant is not one of them. When asked to stop this one, why not do it and draw your battle somewhere else where it really matters?

        • AdamEdg says:

          Follow the trail – I agreed with Josh from Houston. It’s just that Avocat’s post hit right before mine. Read my other response for validation on my view.

  6. Avocat says:

    YSA is not obscene–it’s just really juvenile and embarrassing. Obviously, there are issues with the way things went down, but I for one would love to see MLS fans grow up. Now, the “We don’t hear an [effin’] thing” cheer will never die, nor should it.

    • Robert says:

      By you not participating is doing more good than trying to enforce your personal agenda on others. If you find it juvenile and embarrassing don’t participate.

  7. Charles says:

    Thanks for the parenting advice Robert, my kids have heard it all and don’t use the words, but thanks anyway. Some of US Parents don’t want to hear it ourselves. I am not some prude either, my kids tell me not to use those words.

    The cheer, if it is the same one that is used in the rest of the league, is
    1 stupid
    2 unoriginal

    You would have thought it would die out on its own because it is so dumb.

    I don’t have a problem with people being booted from a game for foul language. It is a FREE country. The team sold a ticket with those rules, then they enforce them, the fan agreed and bought the ticket…

    …Don’t blame the team.

    The team is trying to run a biz, and they aren’t going to boot you for an occassional swear word. I know, because the Sounder’s pathetic counter attack has brought on swear words before.
    But they can’t cater to 20 something boys pretending too hard to be men either.

    • Robert says:

      Glad to hear your kids don’t use swear words, at least not in front of you. Which, by the way is a good thing. They have respect for you as a father. Let’s just be thankful it’s You Suck Asshole and not some racist chant! Ever see the video of E’to walking off the field in disgust?

      Like with all things we don’t like just ignore it but once you make a big deal out of nonsense it encourages people to act up even more. Again, asshole is just a word and could be an adjective of someone’s character not someones race, creed or sexual orientation.

      • Charles says:

        Well, I definitely agree with you on the racist thing.
        Luckily as stupid as the other cheer is, people in the US for the most part realize that any racism is way dumber. I am not sure which race/creed would be cheered against in my section.

        Two things, I don’t participate and the Sounders will never get it stopped, it is 30k out of 36k yelling it. Hopefully it will die on it own soon.

        Where did it start ? is it a Euro thing ? Or did all of MLS adopt it at once ?
        IF it is because of the single entity, I withdraw my support of the way MLS is setup. I will join Robert just like that…..

        • Let's All Hug says:

          I am revoking Charles’ Man Card. Hereby revoked. Dude. Come on. The Fort isn’t large enough to muster new and effective chants. If they had a decent ground, with additional help and some creativity, they could come up with great songs and chants. But that’s never going to happen. Just let them curse. Try a page out of my parenting book. Sit next to your child and discuss what they are seeing and hearing over in the fort. Next, look at your child and say, “Gee (insert name), people sure are different aren’t they?”. No parent should have to explain to their children why the Foxboro Gestapo are hauling people out of the stands for being passionate. Besides, you and I BOTH know that attending a Revs game is like watching tennis. Don’t deny it. You know it be true.

          • lysander says:

            Why they are being hauled out? Well if you say it is for being passionate you are doing a disservice to your kids. Tell them truth. They were hauled out because they refused to follow the rules even when warned they would be thrown out if they continued to break the rules.

          • R2D2 says:

            Wow. You really ARE a droid. Follow whatever rule you’re given. Lemming.

  8. The Truth says:

    This is not a unique occurence nor is it an isolated chant. South of the border, or against teams with a large hispanic fan base, the YSA is replaced with a very sharp “PUTO”. Every game where there’s spanish speaking fans the opposing goal keeper is consistently called a puto instead of an a-hole.

    This ammounts to bad parenting. If you’re going to bring kids to a game attended by adults prepare them for the possibility that they might hear something inappropriate. Treating your children like veal is more repulsive then letting my 7 year old niece hear a stadium full of people yell “a-hole”. If a-hole is a new word to a child it’s time their parents prepare them for the real world not this fantasy progrogressive liberal gay marriage B.S. Set your standards, be a parent, educate your children, share the experiance and keep it at the games!

    • Amen says:

      You, sir, can get a soul clap.

      I am 100 % in agreement. Finally, a parent with sense. We’re creating a nation of pu*ssy lawyers. Who will fight when everyone’s fat and happy? Oh wait, that’s already happening. I guess the Revolution may have started in Boston, but it sure as hell is DYING in Boston.

    • Robert says:

      I’m standing at my desk at work and applauding you.

      MLS is trying to garner the 18-40 MALE AUDIENCE. Males in this demographic use foul language and its just bad parenting if you are going to take your kid to this type of event and not explain what Asshole means and why they are doing it.

  9. Rex says:

    As an avid sports fan I have season tickets to NFL, college football and MLS. It happens everywhere and more than it used to. The classic “Bull SH**T” chant can be heard on TV in many college football/basketball games. That doesn’t make it okay though. I think such things are lame, lack creativity and embarrassing. The fans and supporters groups should police themselves. It is up to us to tap the guy next to us and tell him to ‘keep it clean’. Supporters groups should do the same. If the security or FO has an issue it should be taken care of before and after a game. In game ALWAYS causes confrontation. Revs FO/security are definitely in the wrong here.

    • Freud says:

      When you get angry or frustrated with something, are you polite? When you see an injustice on the field of play in your sport of choice, do you respectfully request justice? You have a lot of control and I commend you for it. Do you also sleep 12 hours a day?

  10. Evan says:

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The issue is not about a desire to use or extend support for the use of profanity in The Fort whether it’s the YSA chant or something else. At the request of and in cooperation with club officials, efforts on the part of the organized supporters groups have been undertaken this season to diminish their use, but for a number of reasons, the efforts have not had the desired affect. The key issue that supporters are focusing on is the manner in which a number of Revolution officials, Team Ops security services, and the Town of Foxborough Police Department reacted this past Saturday. We as supporters have had enough with the posturing, bullying, intimidation, threats, and in some cases, possible civil rights violations on the part of TeamOps and the Town of Foxborough Police Department. This has gone on far too long and too many dedicated Revolution supporters have bailed on the club and no longer attend matches as a result of this. If these parties continue to act with impunity and without accountability the New England Revolution will continue to lose some of their most passionate and dedicated supporters.

  11. MarkB says:

    You refer to behavior in Europe as if it’s a good thing. In Argentine, they rain down bags of urine on fans sitting in lower sections – yeah, that’s real fans! The claim that screaming curses is a sign of real fandom is pathetic. Those kids in Vancouver turning over cars and burning them were real fans, werent’ they? In Spain, they call black players monkeys and throw bananas at them. That’s what we need here more REAL soccer fan behavior. When we see lit flares thrown at players, then we’ll know we’ve arrived.

  12. Wake Up Call says:

    “Parents are not going to want to take a child to a game where they can learn new words, so management is conceivably justified in trying to maintain a clean language environment.”

    hahahahahah. What!?!?!?!

    Do you have any children?

    This is bullsh*t, and yes, my son knows this word. He learned it at SCHOOL. Dude, do you live in a Disney Movie?

    • Robert says:


    • Sam says:

      +1 sir well done, if your 10 year old kid has never head A hole or the like they live in a hole or a cave; and what ever happended to “its a bad word jonny, dont say it or youll get soap in your mouth” that threat worked well for my whole family, I sat in the ESC as 13 year old and im not morally corrupted

  13. Clampdown says:

    I’ve never been a member of a supporters group in MLS. However, I used to sit in 101 at the Meadowlands, and the ESC had a similar run-in with the Meadowlands security staff a few years back during a match against the Galaxy. The security group clearly was focused on creating conflict with the supporters and fairly violently removed some of them that day. Then, the same morons tried to start fights with the supporters group in the parking lot afterward. Thankfully, the Red Bull organization was on the side of the supporters, realizing they pretty much had no loyal following outside of them.

    The biggest problem with the New England issue, from what I understand, is that Kraft also runs the security firm for the matches. It also seems pretty clear that the security staff targeted the supporters from the get-go. This is very stupid, and if the Revolution organization wants to keep its fanbase it needs to stand up for the supporters immediately.

    • Chinese Finger Puzzle says:

      Kraft owns the team. Kraft owns the stadium. Kraft owns the security force. Kraft is a huge tax base so Kraft owns the town. Kraft owns the Patriots so Krafts owns the politicians. Kraft owns the parking lot and paid for the roads next to Gillette, so Kraft pays the police overtime. Kraft pays Gulati who sits on the board for US soccer.


      Kraft doesn’t care. Kraft will never care. Kraft lies again and again and again.

  14. Andrew says:

    Who cares about the Mass-holes anyway? Let them stew in their floppy hair, boat shoes and trust funds.

  15. The Last Minuteman says:

    @risapres thats a GREAT idea you tool. Lets ban alcohol at the stadium and give the pigs more power. I mean, that US Constitution thing is a useless rag anyway. Oh and we should ban colors too. Those evil colored shirts with thier damned distractive qualities. I hope u were being sarcastic, there, Chairman Mao. All we’ve got on those badge-heavy thugs is their realization that “the mob of us” could overwhelm them any tIme we want. Why is everyone so ready to kiss police ass all the time?

  16. predrag says:

    In hockey terms New England plays short hand 90 minutes….Reason is that horrible fella Alston .NE will make great move if they rid of that guy.He remind me to fly buzzing around doing absolutely nothing.New England needs soccer specific stadium for 15000 fans,much better defense and much better coach. So far this is the worst team of MLS regardless of standing.This is short view from Europe.

    • Duck Boat Willie says:

      Hey, Euro, good observations! If you’ve ever been over here in Boston, you know that it’s a beautiful place full of people who LOVE their sports. A total re-brand of this team and the face of soccer in New England would change. The problem is ownership and a belief that soccer should be all about obesity and Mickey Mouse.

  17. QUENTEZ1@YAHOO.COM` says:

    See that passion I am a strong believer a football chant can inspire and create superstars.Plus all american sports for families.We need a place 4 holligans drunks,people who can’t stay home,who wanna hat sombody else go to the soccer game had fun get wasted see the other team supporter sing at them loud or kick there ass only men over 18. lol just kidding

  18. Krafownzrevs says:

    I don’t think many people in the Fort would have a problem with getting rid of Y.S.A. It’s just the ham-handed way they went about it. Start ejecting and arresting people with no prior pregame warning? Asking the Capo to suddenly get 1000 people to stop doing it? Ridiculous.

    These Team-Ops (security) people who glare at us every game all wear Patriot’s hats…. what does that tell you? It tells me that they don’t understand the global Soccer culture one bit. This is the stupidity us paying customers must endure, along with pointyball grid lines on the field come late summer.

  19. Little Johnnie at his bedside says:

    Dear God,
    Please Deliver These Comments to Mr. Garber.
    I know he’ll never read them but Amen anyway.

  20. pete says:

    Maybe you lot need to rip the stadium to bits and have mass riots in the stands. They don’t give a toss about bad language in England, they’re too worried about a mass riot breaking out to worry about bad language. There is an unwritten rule though where the goal ends are for the fans, who will scream, chant and swear their heads off, the same in the away end, the side stands are for families, language is used less there.

    As far as the people owning the stadiums, that’s bull, the fans own the stadium, without them, there would be no club. That is why owners in England never say a bad word about their fans, they know what’s good for them

  21. Kraftownzrevs says:

    Sorry Pete in England. You are way off the mark on this one. If we ripped the stadium apart (not that I’d even want to destroy property) we would pay for it legally speaking. In addition, no, we do not own the stadium and it’s primarily a pointyball stadium paid for by a billionaire. We just don’t have the same Fooball culture here that you do yet. It’s sad that it’s so underdevloped here that most paying customers just come for their soccer loving kids…. not to see the game themselves. So they just dont’ get it. They just know that little Banjo and little Wingspan are being subjected to naughty words.

  22. Vermont Soccer Fan says:

    I was at a Revolution against a Mexican Team a couple of years ago and was astounded by the racial slurs and profanity thrown out of that area – I am surprised management tolerated it for this long (and I’m glad my son was too young to realize the meaning behind what they were saying).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *