The LA Galaxy is scheduled to play the Leagues Cup Semifinal match against Cruz Azul on Aug. 20. But after the adoration showered on lesbian soccer players such as Megan Rapinoe after their celebrated World Cup victory, fans may also be watching for how professional soccer deals with the constant homophobic chants that mar the game.
During the LA Galaxy’s recent 2-0 win over Club Tijuana, chants of “puto” (slur for “faggot”) were as loud as cheers for the two penalty kicks at Dignity Health Sports Park. “Aside from goals, a controversial homophobic Mexican chant that accompanied Galaxy goalkicks constituted the loudest cheers,” the Los Angeles Times reported July 23. They were loud enough to be picked up by ESPN, according to broadcast analyst Taylor Twellman.
Last May, “Puto” chants were heard during the LA Galaxy’s “Pride Night,” as well, according to Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports. The LA Galaxy was home to Robbie Rogers and the Major League Soccer promoted LGBTQ inclusion in its Soccer For All campaign. “It is time for Major League Soccer to choose whether it is going to end this behavior or equivocate on it. There is no longer a middle ground,” Zeigler wrote.
On July 11, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the global organization that governs soccer, updated its Disciplinary Code rules for racism, homophobia, and discrimination to “fight against this appalling attack on the fundamental human rights of individuals.”
The new rules say: “discrimination of any kind on account of race, skin color, ethnic, national or social origin, religion, and/or sexual orientation is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
Now a referee can suspend a match after applying a three-step procedure: “Referees would first stop the match and request a public announcement to insist that the discriminatory behavior cease. If this has no effect, he or she can then suspend play again and, if the racist, behavior persists, abandon the match.”
Additionally, penalties are increased to a 10-game suspension for players engaging in racist or discriminatory activity on the field.
In Europe, the sport has had a decades-old problem post World War Two with racism and homophobia and Mexico is notorious for homophobic abuse of players and coaches from spectators.
A spokesperson with the FIFA-affiliated US Soccer Federation told the Los Angeles Blade that given the recent Women’s World Cup championship, “it’s hoped that referees will take immediate actions to prevent these behaviors.”
Obviously, wishing and hoping aren’t working.