On Sunday, the Los Angeles Football Club of Major League Soccer played against the Seattle Sounders in an inaugural home match at its new stadium in downtown Los Angeles. But some LAFC fans soured the special night by chanting gay slurs.
Throughout the match, LAFC fans shouted the Spanish gay slur “puto” at the Sounders’ goalkeeper. The word is slang for “fag” or “male prostitute” or “unmanly.” The word, which has been denounced by FIFA, was chanted by the fan section in the Banc of California Stadium’s 3252 area when the opposing team took a free kick.
Immediately following the game, the LAFC and the Independent Supporters’ Union published a statement on Twitter and unleashed a series of tweets warning fans “who participate in the chants will be removed from the stadium” and have their membership revoked. The statement also calls on fans and supporters to “hold each other accountable to eliminate this [behavior].”
LAFC and its Supporters will continue to actively work together to enforce a zero-tolerance policy at Banc of California Stadium. Together, let’s win in the stands. pic.twitter.com/cezOtrBx1R
— The 3252 (@LAFC3252) May 1, 2018
The District 9 Ultras and @LAFC3252 have a zero tolerance standard in regard to derogatory chants. If you are caught joining any chant that is derogatory, you will be immediately disaffiliated from the D9U, and we will ensure your @LAFC membership rights are revoked. pic.twitter.com/WgwMAeax4Q
— District 9 Ultras (@district9ultras) April 30, 2018
The group also took to Instagram to release a statement committing “to work with LAFC fans and front office staff to eliminate any discriminatory chants” saying the “beautiful homecoming” match was “spoiled” by the chants.
A beautiful homecoming can be spoiled by intolerable “tradition.” . Our code of conduct includes the following tenant: “We embrace everyone who is willing to stand with The 3252, sing with The 3252 and support the Los Angeles Football Club with us no matter your race, national origin, religion, political views, sexual orientation or gender. Discrimination or prejudice will never be tolerated by The 3252 Independent Supporters Union.” . We will continue to work with LAFC fans and front office staff to eliminate any discriminatory chants in The North End and Banc of California Stadium.
MLS commissioner Don Garber told the Los Angeles Times, “We are not just concerned about [the chants], it defies everything we stand for,” he said. “I’ve spoken to ownership during the game. They get it. And I have real confidence that it’ll stop.”
In recent weeks, many professional sports organizations have been struggling to combat racist, sexist, and homophobic behavior from its fans and players. Last month, FIFA penalized 2018 World Cup host Russia after fans referred to black French players as “monkeys.” Australian rugby player Israel Folau came under fire for claiming homosexuals would go to hell unless they repented in an Instagram post in April. In January, a rugby team in France dropped its captain for using a gay slur.
UK inclusion and equality organization Kick It Out recently reported abuse in soccer rose 59% last year, with racism topping the list, followed by homophobia. Some of this rise is attributed to more people willing to report abuse.