The Portland Thorns, a professional women's soccer team fighting for market share in a city where the official pastime is food truck scavenger hunting, caused quite a Facebook kerfuffle among soccer fans who thought punny new fan t-shirts emblazoned with "Feelin' Thorny?" were, oh, what's the word...sexist. In response to a groundswell of criticism, Mike Golub, the chief operating officer of the Thorns as well as its male counterpart, the Timbers (both are owned by Merritt Paulson), announced that shirts would be discontinued just about 24 hours after going on sale.
According to the Oregonian, the "Feelin' Thorny?" slogan began inviting charges of sexism from all corners of the Thorns Facebook page. Although Golub insisted that the shirt pun was simply a jest, and that "a great majority of fans find it funny," the backlash was significant enough to persuade the organization to take the shirts off of store shelves and stop peddling it (for the low, low price of $28!) on the Thorns/Timbers website.
In an apparent effort to diffuse charges of sexism, Golub revealed that a female employee had come up with the "Feelin' Thorny" slogan, though he wouldn't reveal the employee's name. Posters on Facebook pointed out that the shits sexualized the women's soccer team in a way that would the organization would never do to the men's team. One poster in particular framed the shirt's inherent sexism pretty concisely:
What makes you think that producing a t-shirt with the phrase "Feeling Thorny?" is a good idea? Why the need to sexualize merchandise for a women's sport, or any sport for that matter?
It's as tasteless as selling a shirt at Timbers games that says "Got wood?" This is such a disappointment and missed opportunity to promote the strength and ability of these women. I hope you'll reconsider the design and replace it with something more empowering and tactful.
Look, either everyone gets sexualized t-shirts or no one does. By itself, "Feelin' Thorny?" is a sexist slogan because it implies that female soccer players shouldn't be marveled at for their skill and athletic prowess — they should be objectified, too. Male athletes are certainly objectified, but never in a sexually possessive way. The message is always more subliminally sexual — Joe Flacco throws a touchdown pass while sweating Gatorade and a voiceover growls, "Hey bro, don't you want to touch penises with Joe Flacco after the game?" That, or fans are invited admire the godlike torsos of male athletes. You never see slogans like "Got Wood?" or "The New York Yankees Want You to Use Your Raging Boner for Batting Practice" because, with the exception of the ‘76 White Sox, nobody deems it appropriate to overtly sexualize male athletes. That has to change before something like a "Feelin' Thorny?" shirt can be taken for what Golub says it is — a mildly clever pun that induces people to shell out almost $30.
Portland Thorns women's soccer team pulls T-shirt from sale [The Oregonian]