So almost every year and in almost every stadium there is a battle over swearing, this year the tinderbox of profanity became a fire that is burning out of control in New England. Not only did the Revolution kick out fans for the infamous "you suck asshole" chant (yes I typed it), they actually banned several members of their supporter groups and even had some arrested.
You can read a fairly extensive report of the incidents at The Bent Musket, and The Drug is Football. You can read reaction from The Brotherly Game, who cover the Philadelphia Union and explain the dealings between the Union's front office and the Sons of Ben.
This issue comes up all the time in almost every market, indeed we have had to deal with it a lot here in Salt Lake City from the early days at Rice Eccles Stadium and the ongoing issues at Rio Tinto. For me this really is a non-issue, for a couple simple points:
1) Swearing happens - in life, at home, at sports, in schools, and the harsh reality is that while there will always be a few people who may be offended by it, there is simply no way to police every incident of it. Now I can agree that listening to a fan or group of fans swear for hours on end is boorish at best, and annoying at worse, but it clearly isn't something that should be handled with the tactics that appeared to have been used in New England.
more after the jump:
2) Issues of language - now I am not sure if the Revolution have a Hispanic supporters group or not, but a number of teams do and I know in Salt Lake City, the chants that were being said in Spanish were much more "vulgar" than those in English but only those in English were subject to complaints from others. In fact the issue has gotten more heated as some supporters have started using the Spanish chants translated into English.
3) Swearing isn't illegal, and "fan behavior codes" may not be enforceable - In San Diego there was a fan who was arrested for "flipping the bird" which was seen as a violation of the stadium's policy on vulgar and obscene behavior:
On Monday, Judge Gale Kaneshiro threw the case out, ruling city policy on this kind of fan behavior is vague. Since the security guard went to the defendant for "giving the middle-finger," that violated Ensign's right to free speech, the judge said. Kaneshiro also ruled that security guards are "citizens, they are not peace officers," and Ensign had a right to defend himself against them.
Prevost said the ruling could have a sweeping effect on professional sports league rules that prohibit cursing and foul language that may be interpreted as free speech. The NFL's fan code, implemented in 2008, forbids cursing and vulgar language. However, according to Keneshiro's ruling, that is free speech, Prevost said.
4) The group or the individual - So it was clear that the effort in New England was directed at the Revolution supporter groups, but is that fair. If you are going to enforce rules then shouldn't they be enforced not only on groups but on every individual? So has the stadium thrown out the single fan for swearing, heck most of the time they can't find the culprit who throws stuff on the pitch. Yet it is easy to focus your attention on a group, but I wonder if they actually got people who said it, maybe they just worded the chant. Oh the legal slope here is very slippery.
5) There are bigger fish to fry - I am sorry but the Rev's have larger issues both on and off the pitch. On the pitch their team has more losses (7) than anyone else in the league, their overall 3-7-6 record and -7 goal differential are nothing that will be bringing fans into watch them play. The team is averaging under 15,000 per match and I have to say after watching a number of their home matches this year that it seems more likely that it is about 10K actually showing up.
So legally the Revolution appear to be on very shaky ground, and to me it just seems that if you have a problem with perhaps the only league wide chant of "YSA" when an opposing keeper kicks the ball, well you might just be focusing on the wrong problem. Could it be the scapgoating of fans to turn attention away from the awful performance on the pitch? Could it be the Kraft's way of saying this is why you don't have your own stadium? It just really seems like there are better ways of dealing with things than to attack and arrest your most loyal fans.
OFF MY SOAPBOX