Have you ever tried to watch a sporting event and thought, "I'd enjoy this so much more if there wasn't so much organized profanity?" Major League Soccer thinks you have, and are now demanding Red Bull New York supporters stop one particular chant—or else.
The chant routinely takes place when the visiting team takes a goal kick. A crescendoing note leads to the majority of the stadium shouting "YOU SUCK, ASSHOLE!" in unison as the away goalkeeper strikes the ball. Here's what "YSA" sounds like in action:
It's equal parts funny and stupid, as most sports chants are. But it also is apparently the scourge of MLS, as the league has been applying increasing pressure to clubs to try and wipe out the chant for years. An interview with commissioner Don Garber last year included him describing the pain of hearing the chant during a matinee game at Red Bull Arena that was filled with camp kids:
"That is just infuriating to me. It’s just so uncreative and ridiculous, and we need to stop it. Our broadcast partners don’t like it. When vulgarity is going over the air, it’s an issue with the FCC and we’ve got to stop it...They need to stop it in New York, and they need to stop it in a handful of other markets. And if they don’t stop it, we’re going to have to find a way to eradicate it from our game. We can’t have young kids in stadiums listening to vulgarity. No other league would tolerate it. No other public event would have it and we can’t tolerate it in Major League Soccer."
That pressure to "eradicate" it came to a head yesterday, as the New York Red Bulls' three supporters groups received a letter from the league and club, demanding that "the passion of our core fans...must be displayed in a responsible manner." Identifying four games in July that would be monitored, the groups are being told to "demonstrate a universal commitment to eliminate YSA and foul chants both at Red Bull Arena and on the road," among other things. Failure to do so will see escalating sanctions imposed. (You can read the full letter here, courtesy of the Empire Supporters Club.)
But as an added wrinkle, the RBNY Front Office decided that a stick alone wouldn't provoke the change, and also proposed a carrot: a $500 contribution to the South Ward for each game where the chant isn't used. While the supporters' groups have not determined what, if anything, they would do with the money—a supporters' group accepting money from the club is considered by some the soccer equivalent of "selling out"—this may very well mark the first time in US sports that a team is offering money to stop the word "asshole" from being hurled around its stadium.
The Red Bulls return home Saturday to face the Montreal Impact. While the match will mean a lot for the Eastern Conference standings, the question on everyone's mind will be whether or not Troy Perkins is or is not an asshole. Sadly, we may never know.