Op-Ed: Got That Not-So-Thorny Feeling?

People are pretty riled up about the release of the “Feeling Thorny?” shirt now available on the official Portland Thorns web site.

Look, I get it. It comes off as sexist. It’s not empowering for women, and especially younger girls, who will likely be attending Thorns matches in droves this season. With this being the NWSL’s inaugural season, and after two recent failed attempts at creating a successful women’s soccer league, you’d think that marketing personnel throughout would take a more conservative approach in getting the message out and securing the league’s future prospects.

I’m staring fatherhood square in the face, and will soon have to take time in nearly every decision I make to ensure that it, in no way, affects my daughter in a negative fashion. Regardless of my daughter’s age (5, 15, or 35), I wouldn’t buy this product for her. I don’t really care for the connotation. Plus, speaking as a marketer, I just think that Merritt’s marketing team is capable of much better.


Just as much as it’s my right to not buy this shirt, Merritt has just as much right to manufacture and sell it. Just because we don’t agree with it doesn’t make it wrong. It’s just something we don’t agree with. I don’t agree with most bumper stickers on cars in driveways up and down my street, and consider many of them to be ignorant, but going up to each car’s owner and telling them they have to remove their bumper stickers would be just as ignorant. Like my street, this goes two ways. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Portland has become known as a rather progressive city over the last few decades. I believe the most common term used to describe us is “mustachioed vegan hippies,” but let’s just go with “progressive,” shall we? I would think that as a progressive city, we could take a progressive approach and simply ignore this offensive-to-you-maybe-not-offensive-to-others t-shirt.

Our lack of purchase is the strongest message that could possibly be sent to Merritt’s team. Instead, we had to go and get our PC panties in a bunch and go on a Twitter rampage, bringing even more attention to something that offended us, increasing the public’s awareness of the shirt we wanted to see eliminated. Trust me…that’s a marketer’s dream come true.

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Don’t acknowledge it. Just move on. If Merritt sees a warehouse full of never-purchased Feeling Thorny shirts, he’ll get the message.


This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the 107ist or the TA.

This entry was posted in TA Blogs, Timbers Army and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Op-Ed: Got That Not-So-Thorny Feeling?

  1. Brandon says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have avoided Twitter all day because of the outrage. Don’t like it, don’t buy it. Pretty simple.

  2. Mike says:

    I’m on the fence about these. They certainly are a bit controversial, but at the same time I find them very clever and funny. I don’t know if I will be purchasing one, but I sure as heck would wear one.

    • Jamie Krueger says:

      I’m completely agnostic on the shirts, but I do know they’re neither clever or funny. That’s Something you’d see hanging next to the clearance St Paddy’s day dreck at Spencer’s Gifts.

      Then again, almost all of the FO merchandise has been cringe inducing awful.

  3. Neal says:

    Of course someone has the right to ignore them. Merritt also has the right to produce them. Same as some guy in the South has the right to produce a blatantly racist t-shirt. The “if you don’t like it then don’t buy it” argument offered here sort of falls through the floor as this is more about a team (company) many people want to follow (do business with) and the team (company) makes something sexist (Feelin Thorny anyone?) and then the CEO (Merritt) proceeds to have a twitter meltdown.

    The proper response might have been, “you know we didn’t really think this through and maybe we’ll hold off on these for a while.”

    Frankly the whole “Feelin’ Thorny” t-shirt feels a lot like when Sepp Blatter said women should wear tighter and skimpier stuff to sell the women’s sport. Sure sex sells but really that’s just sexist. In the same way Feelin’ Thorny is sort of a funny play on words but you laugh because you’re at a women’s soccer game feelin horny. Get it? Get it?

  4. Juan Farias says:

    The fact that it has people talking about is marketing success. Simply by posting you are aiding that which you disapprove of.

  5. Dunlinx says:

    Didnt see if it had soccer branding too. If not dumpem on the blackthorne cider folks

  6. Abbie says:

    I’m sorry, but this is a completely weak and tired argument. If I ignored everything I hated instead of standing up for what I believed, I’d be a fucking doormat.

    First off, coming off of the tragedy in Steubenville, this is such a poor marketing strategy. Have some tact and awareness. A woman’s body is not a sexual plaything nor is it a billboard to advertise patriarchy.
    Secondly, women’s soccer (and other sports) in America has trudged through enough shit trying get some semblance of respect. I expected better out of Soccer City USA and the Portland franchise. This does nothing for being a progressive organization. Way to stick to the old routine…
    Last, get my “PC panties in a bunch”? Only when people show some sort of emotion or outrage do we equate them with hysterical or overly-emotional women with their underwear in knots… and this is seen as a bad thing or a put-down.
    The t-shirts suck, but your argument sucks worse.

    • Loren says:

      So very well said. If you ignore something like this when you are fully aware of the negative connotations, you aren’t above it, you are complicit in it. The stance of ‘just ignore it and it will go away’ equates to tacit acceptance if not approval.

      I would counter that its not us who are PC twerps. Anti-confrontationalism (I may have made that word up) is the heart of PC BS, and it allows demonstrably denigrating behavior to persist.

    • Lucas Lacasella says:

      Wow, you jump from a moderately offensive t-shirt to a direct correlation with Steubenville?

      • Nikki Suydam says:

        Objectification starts somewhere.

        • Sarah Spring says:

          I call bullshit on this shirt AND on the Timbers Army chanting “shag your women.” You don’t get to play the hokey pokey with sexism. You can’t holler an objectifying chant and then beat your breast in outrage over an objectifying T-shirt. This seems like a real good time to finally drop that chant.

      • Abbie says:

        I did not imply direct correlation. When the conversation around the Steubenville tragedy has been so much about placing the blame on the woman, I find this marketing strategy to be in poor taste.

    • Pretty.penguin says:

      Thank you Abbie, well said.

    • Ahem says:

      Well, okay, I get the outrage and sensitivity some folks are feeling and I’m definitely one of those in the if you don’t like it don’t buy it camp. The market alone should be deciding what merchandise fuels the profits and really they could well have done one for the Timbers. So probably nobody should be surprised when “Feeling Thorny?”, “Got Wood?” and other such shirts start showing up produced by supporters or subgroups of them just because they fall on the side of thinking them funny and they will probably be less spendy than when offered by the club as official merchandise in addition to which the club will get ZERO profit out of them in any measurable way. Perhaps it would be okay to just not have a filthy mind in the first place and see it as a funny way of saying something sassy as several teenagers I saw at the game indicated.

      Now here’s the question…all the outrage about this on a t-shirt to support a club for which the single best known star player (and possibly others, I’m not sure) has posed prior to age 24 for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in nothing more than…paint. Yep. You want to get outraged about something influencing your daughters, how about that? Teach them self respect and dignity individually and collectively, then let them make their own choices for their own reasons. They might surprise you.

  7. Braden says:

    Not only does my wife want one, I want the ‘Got Wood?’ shirt in one of the links above, too.

  8. Matthew Shields says:

    At the risk of piling on Andrew, I think you’re just flat out wrong here.

    I don’t even have that huge a problem with the shirt. I think it’s stupid and kind of sexist and I won’t buy it – but then I wasn’t going to buy much front office gear anyway.

    The fact is we are the target market here. Standing up and telling the Thorns that this gear is stupid is exactly what we should be doing. Nobody has told Merritt “You have no right to sell this!” That is a straw man argument. What people are telling him is “This shirt you made here was a really dumb idea.” That is not the same thing.

    Besides – most of the talk I saw on Twitter was actually pretty good natured. It was mostly eye rolling and snarky remarks.

  9. Holly says:

    Well said, Andrew!

    I absolutely HATE the shirts. Not only are they in bad taste, but it’s just simply lazy. If they wanted a witty play on words, they could have spent a little more time in the ‘ol brainstorming room and thought of something that works on a witty and positive level.

    I know the FO can crap out whatever they want and the masses will eat it up, but if they REALLY applied themselves, chances are their merch would blow out the doors at their incredibly obscene pricing.

    I’m pretty crass for a person, yet you don’t see me selling “Keep Calm and Vag On” tees in my etsy shop. Because that’s not witty. It’s tasteless. And for the FO, whose demographic covers a broad range of people, to sink to the level of objectifying members of a professional sports team with sexualized merchandise, it is really puzzling. It makes me wonder who is developing their merchandise; obviously someone who does not know about their fan base.

    But, it’s a free country, they can attempt to sell tacky tees, but my money’s staying at the No Pity Van.

    Now back to ignoring the Twitter Shitstorm!

  10. Dylan Fields says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. What you’re saying isn’t what the timbers army is about at all. If someone were to wear a sexist/racist or homophobic shirt in the north end are we simply supposed to ignore that as well, like the car bumper stickers you reference? Not pointing out something like this, that blatantly and needlessly sexualizes women, is giving in to the prevailing culture of rape and sexism that we actively try to fight in the North End every time we stand up for the Rose City. I’d really encourage you to reconsider your stance here. It’s just as ill thought out as the stupid classless shirts were.

    • Abbie says:

      Isn’t it mentioned somewhere on the Timbers Army chant sheets that sexist/racist/homophobic chants will not be tolerated? I can’t find a copy of one online.

  11. Nichol Denison says:

    Has any equally sexualized FO merch been produced for the boys?

    • Kristen says:

      Merritt says he’s issued a “directive” to his staff to produce a “Got wood?” t-shirt for the Timbers. That was, of course, after he suggested that those that don’t like the marginalization and sexualization of the women’s team through this idiotic marketing ploy are “prudes.”

      Stay classy, MP.

  12. Sean says:

    Well said Andew. There’s more offensive stuff on two sticks at every home game. There hasn’t even been a thorns game yet and the entitlement has started.

  13. Grant Engler says:

    Please. “Shag your women and drink your beer” anyone? Let’s not be hypocrites; the shirts are fine and we are just bored with no game this week…

  14. Richard Hamje says:

    Are we so naive as to believe/pretend there is no sexual element to sports, and to sports marketing? Has nobody noticed the Beckham or Christiano Ronaldo underwear ads? Take a look here and Isn’t it fairly easy to see that many sports are barely-concealed sexual metaphors in and of themselves?

    With all that said, tacky is tacky and marketing in a manner offensive to your target audience is stupid. The FO should be called out on it for those reasons. A boycott is fine, but there is certainly nothing wrong with telling someone he’s being a jerk when he is. You can start with me, if you disagree with the above.

  15. Anon says:

    Are you serious? A random person with an offensive bumper sticker is not comparable to an organization, such as a sports team, selling offensive merchandise.

  16. Kristine says:

    Though I’d wear one and I’m a female, I can see both sides and the hypocracy on them. Most sports do flaunt sexuality, whether it be cheerleaders or Beckham’s tighties. My question is what would peole say if the Timbers hapened to be called the Thorns, and they had that same shirt? I have a feeling it would’t be so controversial. Also, these women are amazing and deserve respect, and I wonder about the balance between creating excitement (funny shirts, conversation) v. Drawing new fans to women’s sports without hype. There has to be a medium that’s exciting but not controversial…
    Lastly, i wonder what the players think about these shirts?!

  17. Steve says:

    If No Pitty Originals came up with it people would buy it, and excuse it by calling it “ironic”

    • Harper Morgan-Werner says:

      If No Pity Originals produced something like this, I would be even more outraged. I expect waaaay more from them then I do from our “we will not get this wrong!” FO.

  18. Justin Warber says:

    How fitting.
    Thorny – “painfully controversial” (thefreedictionary.com)

  19. Brendan O'Hanlon says:

    Feeling outrage about this is a bit much. Justin thoughtfully included a definition of ‘thorny’, above. My first and most obvious thought is that it can refer to an attitude that is “prickly.”

    Of course, both “thorny” and “prickly” call to mind other terms that have sexual connotations, but that’s you putting the meaning into it, not the word.

    That said, i’m not blind to the intent to give both the sexual “horny’ meaning and something like a prickly, adversarial, meaning as well. Which I think is a bit tacky. Not as tacky as the old stickers that said “49% Angel, 51% Bitch” or the song “I’m a Bitch” or many other irritating things, but tacky nonetheless.

    I would be upset if this were the heart of the Thorns message. But it isn’t. They have numerous shirts. One is even the relatively obscure state motto that is almost certainly as unlikley to appeal to the people who buy “Feeling Thorny?” shirts as the “Feeling Thorny?” shirt is to you.

    We shouldn’t make assumptions about the Timbers / Thorns audience. A few weeks ago MP tweeted that he would be taking suggestions for the Timbers’ lead-in song – and a shocking number of people were going for “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC or some other jock-rock stadium garbage. The organization does just market to the TA and its DIY / Authentic / Punk / Indie attitude. It markets to everyone they think might go to a game.

    Lastly, I might have missed something in my familiarity with womens’ rights issues, but I thought a big part of it was sexual liberation and the right of a woman to be a sexual being and not just a sexual object. There is, as far as I know, nothing inherently wrong with “Feeling Horny” unless you are looking at it from some religious or stoic moralist perspective.

  20. Stephen Hattrup says:

    The only thing I find truly offensive about this shirt is the fact that they want $28 for it.

  21. Donald Tidwell says:

    I kinda wanted one

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