The eight-month-old Los Angeles Football Club lost 3-2 in the Audi Major League Soccer Cup playoffs against Real Salt Lake in the Banc of California Stadium on Nov. 1. And unhappy LAFC fans didn’t keep their disappointment in check, chanting an anti-gay slur against the opposing team’s goalie, despite warnings from the LA franchise’s President and Owner Tom Penn and strong statements after previous outbursts.
“Puto,” a Spanish word for male prostitute, is often used in Mexico as a pejorative slur against gay men. This summer, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) slapped Mexico with a $10,000 fine after fans of the country’s national football team shouted the insult from the stands during the June 17 World Cup Opener. The FIFA has been clamping down on the use of homophobic slurs. Tassal “Tass” Rushan, a FIFA European Champion from London who plays for Faze Clan, was banned from FIFA 19 competitive play after he used the slur “fag” in a YouTube video last June. “Due to where I’ve been brought up, the connotation of that word from my perspective until now, it was just another word for prick or idiot. Not even one per cent of me knew it had any type of derogatory connotation towards homosexuality at all,” he told EuroGamer.net.
During LAFC’s first home game against the Seattle Sounders on April 29, MLS Commissioner Dan Garber made a halftime announcement to warn fans who taunted Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei with the anti-gay slur. LAFC subsequently released a statement saying that offenders will be removed from the stadium and their season memberships will be revoked if they are caught. LAFC fans then refrained from using the chant until the Nov. 1 playoffs.
“The chant has no place in our City or Stadium and does not represent who we are as a Club,” reads a joint statement by LAFC and the 3252 Independent Supporters Union. “LAFC and The 3252 are committed to creating an inclusive, welcoming and safe experience at Banc of California Stadium for all fans.”
Retired professional basketball player Jason Collins, who made history when he came out as gay in 2013, tweeted that he was “disgusted” by the “homophobic chanting” during the LAFC playoff game.
But warnings from LAFC, MLS, and FIFA have so far failed to deter fans. The New York Times noted in June that FIFA gave referees the power to stop matches if fans continued using the chant, but those procedures were not enforced during Mexico’s June 17 World Cup Opener against Germany.
LAFC’s official LGBT fan group emphasized action and enforcement over warnings and statements from franchise officials: “Videos, talking points, and ‘policies’ are not enough: the league must take decisive action in order to eradicate this chant permanently.”