MLS Threatens Fans: No More "You Suck, Asshole" Chants

Within the last couple of weeks, a number of MLS supporters' groups have received letters from their teams' front offices. Important letters. Letters threatening sanctions if the fans don't eliminate what's apparently a major issue in MLS: The ever-present "You Suck, Asshole" chants.

You know the one. At many (most?) MLS arenas, fans will time the chant for opposing goalie kicks, sometimes corners and free kicks too. Here's a textbook example from the Union crowd:

MLS has had enough. On June 28th, Real Salt Lake supporters' groups got a letter from the team. It announced that four upcoming matches will be specially monitored for the chant (charmingly referred to as, simply, "YSA"), and if fans can't cut it out themselves, they will receive sanctions including bans on smoke devices, banners, and drums, and removal of parking passes, discounted tickets and other special privileges.

Members of Real Salt Lake Supporter Clubs are expected to (1) demonstrate a universal commitment to eradicate YSA, its derivatives and other chants employing mass use of foul language - both at Rio Tinto Stadium and on the road; (2) support messaging campaigns via web, social media and face-to-face to all supporters, including a public endorsement to eradicate such chants; and (3) energetically overshadow attempts at YSA during goal kicks both at Rio Tinto Stadium and on the road.

A few days later, Red Bull New York supporters' groups received essentially the exact same form letter, solidifying the notion that this is coming down from the commissioner's office. (Both letters can be viewed below.)

This isn't the first time the league has tried to eradicate YSA Revolution fans still speak in hushed tones about a June 2011 night when, after months of pleading with fans to cut it out, the front office cracked down hard. Fans were ejected, banned, even arrested.

Commissioner Don Garber spoke lovingly of that night in a 2012 interview:

One thing I want to say, though, as I attended the game on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena. While the crowd wasn’t what we would have liked it to have been (for an afternoon match that was marketed heavily to youth and families), the (“You Suck A**hole”) chants (popular at stadiums around the league when the opposing goalkeeper takes a goal kick) were far louder than they would be during a Saturday night at a sold-out match.

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. (New England Revolution president) Brian Bilello stopped it in New England, and I really appreciated what the Midnight Riders did. They weren’t happy about it, but I looked to that as I sat with Sunil Gulati at the (Red Bulls) game and I said, “How’d you stop it in New England?”

He said, “We sat down with them and said, ‘You’ve just got to stop.’ ”

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.

A few days later, Garber doubled down. In a Facebook chat with fans, he wrote that

As far as YSA goes, I personally think the cheer is sophomoric and not at all creative. We need to end it. I'd like to think that our supporters can figure out a way to do it on their own so the League doesn't have to step in.

The general feeling among fans is that this latest crackdown is directly tied to MLS's upcoming TV contract (deals with ESPN, NBC, and Univision all expire after 2014, so negotiations for the next deal are already ongoing). Garber has long pitched MLS as a family-friendly league, and the clearly audible profanities don't help that image in person, or on TV.

The YSA chant is sophomoric and unoriginal. But we're forced to wonder if fans who are already engaged and passionate are really MLS's most pressing problem.

We've heard RSL and RBNY aren't the only clubs to send out these letters. If you know of others, drop us a line.

MLS Threatens Fans: No More "You Suck, Asshole" Chants

MLS Threatens Fans: No More "You Suck, Asshole" Chants