—by Sherrilynn "Sheba" Rawson
A statement on behalf of the 107IST Board of Directors
As of today, the “Portland Boys” chant has been removed from our web list of chants; new chant sheets printed for stadium distribution will no longer include “Portland Boys” lyrics; and capos and drums/trumpets will no longer lead the Timbers Army in singing “Portland Boys.”
Generally and historically speaking, as a board we don’t weigh in on chants. Other than the annual printing of chant sheets for the stadium and updating the website to match, our general practice as a board has been to leave it to the capos to lead chants and to allow for every person in the stadium to either accept or reject that leadership—bad chants often die because no one will sing them and good ones live because they catch on, not because the board dictates the details of individual chants.
At the same time, although we have heard and read a variety of member opinions and interpretations with respect to “Portland Boys,” not all of them negative, the board recognizes that there are members of the Timbers Army and of the 107IST who find the chant lyric offensive for a variety of reasons.
We considered that we had three options: (1) do nothing; (2) change the chant line in question; or (3) recommend that the chant be removed from the chant sheets, website, and capo/drum and trumpet repertoire.
The board rejected the first option. The arguments in favor of doing nothing would primarily be to honor TA tradition (the chant has been sung by the TA for many years, predating our entry into MLS) and/or to recognize that there is a lack of clear consensus of opinion among TA as to whether the lyric is offensive and why. Given that the chant doesn’t have unique central ties to either TA culture or history (it is a chant with variations sung by many supporters who are fans of many different soccer teams), and given that members offended by the lyric expressed grave concerns to us about issues that relate to our core values as Timbers Army/107ISTs, we decided that doing nothing was not an option.
The board considered attempting to change the chant lyric. Several acceptable alternate lyrics were presented and discussed, both online and in person, among members and within the capo/drum and trumpet corps. The Timbers Army has had a history of changing chant lyrics in the stands before, so we had a sense of what it would take to do so in this case: messaging in the stands both face to face and via papers on seats; reprinted lyrics on chant sheets; repeated direction from capos at multiple games; and a concerted effort by MANY individuals in the stands to educate their peers on a game-by-game basis. Given the potential for creating continued divisiveness within the stands through what would definitely be a long, drawn-out process, the board ultimately rejected this option as well.
Given that inaction was not an option and that changing the chant lyric was rejected, the board voted unanimously to remove “Portland Boys” from the chant sheet, website, and capo repertoire.
We recognize the importance of honoring and recognizing our history; but we also stand for something more. We reject racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. We reject hate. We value basic human rights and dignity. And if members are concerned that a chant in our canon contains lyrics that run counter to our core, we have a responsibility to decide what we value most.
No single chant defines us, or our ability to show our love for team, town, and TA. Ultimately we know we’ve made the right decision.
Onward, Rose City.