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Let's get rid of the "No means no" meme from MLS, folks

Montero: Frequently taunted after accusation
Montero: Frequently taunted after accusation

I'm not sure if you saw this, but apparently a Portland Timbers player was arrested and questioned about a possible sexual assault in Kansas City last weekend, following the Timbers win over Sporting Kansas City. The player's name has not been revealed, since no charges have yet been filed (and may possibly never be filed). The story is ongoing - more details may emerge, or the local authorities may decline to press charges based on the evidence, or lack thereof.

While we obviously have to wait and see how the story unfolds before we can really discuss the case at hand, an interesting development has emerged on social media. Since the player involved in the case is a Timbers player, there has been a back-and-forth with Timbers and Seattle Sounders fans. Considering their rivalry is quite possibly the fiercest in MLS, fans like to take any opportunity to bash the other team, city, fanbase, and so on. What makes it all the more fascinating is that the Sounders' former star player, Fredy Montero, was accused of sexual assault in 2010, but was never charged in the matter.

One of the memes that subsequently went around MLS, and still pops up rather frequently, despite Montero not playing in MLS this season, is, "No means no, Fredy!" It's been used by fans all over the league, but some Timbers fans in particular took a shine to it, since they are the big rivals and all.

The "No means no" meme is disgusting, because of the context, and fans should quit using it when it comes to taunting players. Here's why.

At heart, it is somewhat sophisticated, since it includes the slogan used for decades by anti-rape groups and educators. "No means no" is an important message, one that all genders should learn and understand, so that potential victims of sexual assault can be empowered to resist attacks if possible, and potential attackers can learn that the wishes of sexual partners must be respected. I remember learning the slogan while I was just a girl, and in hindsight, it's frightening I had to learn it so young, but I suppose that's the world we live in.

Beyond this simple-yet-important message, however, the "No means no" meme as used by MLS fans turns the entire phrase into a joke. It's not a joke, though, as sexual assault continues to be all-too-common. When fans bellow "No means no" at a player as a taunt to throw him off his game, the overall message is in part a callback to past accusations, but also a minimization of the phrase itself.

I'd guess that most of the people who really use this "joke" are male, and laughs are shared among other partisans when it is yelled in public. Even if only intended for the player in question, it still serves to make a joke of the entire message, which again, can empower some people.

So last night, Portland and Seattle fans went back and forth over the new accusation against the Timbers player. Portland fans, some of whom previously loved to taunt Montero with "No means no" now found the shoe on the other foot. So did Seattle fans, many of whom grew weary of pointing out that no charges were ever filed against Montero and so continuing to dredge the incident up seemed unfair to him.

Clearly, some Seattle fans will throw "No means no" back at Timbers' fans with no regrets, while others will refuse to engage, and vice versa for Portland fans. We can't legislate taste.

Still, I would implore fans of all teams to quit using this horrible meme when taunting opposing teams and players. It's not clever, it makes the phrase a joke, which it shouldn't be, and of course, there's the frequent uncertainty of the truth regarding these situations anyway. Let's drop the rape jokes from the fan repertoire, folks.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!