Los Angeles FC has acted quickly to condemn a homophobic chant, pledging to expel anyone who uses it from the team’s new downtown stadium. But the slur in question has been plaguing international soccer for quite a while now.
The derogatory Spanish word could be heard on the television broadcast of last weekend’s game between LAFC and the Seattle Sounders during goal kicks. The game was the first at Banc of California Stadium.READ MORE: Police: Fairfield Teen Found Dead Near Train Tracks Was Shot
The team’s LGBT supporters group, LAFC Pride Republic, called on club officials and the 3252 supporters’ group to take a strong stand against the chants. They did.
“The offensive goal kick chant is wrong and not what we are about. We ask that all of our fans and supporters work to hold each other accountable to eliminate this from Banc of California Stadium,” LAFC President Tom Penn and 3252 President Josef Zacher said in a joint statement.
Last season, after similar chants were heard at Atlanta United’s debut MLS game, the club was also quick to issue a condemnation. Similar chants have been heard throughout the years, including during a 2016 rivalry game between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes.
That same season, Chicago general manger Nelson Rodriguez took a bold stand against the chant, addressing fans following a performance of the national anthem by the city’s Gay Men’s Chorus.
“An inappropriate and offensive chant has been used by some of our fans,” Rodriguez said. “It is unbecoming and certainly not reflective of the great city that we live in, and the best fans in Major League Soccer.”
MLS has always acted swiftly to discourage such behavior. The league has had a program in place since last season called Don’t Cross the Line, which seeks to promote an “atmosphere of diversity, equality and inclusion throughout the soccer community.” Supporters are encouraged to take a stand against discrimination.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber made his feelings clear about the chant when he spoke to reporters at the half of Sunday night’s game.
“It shouldn’t happen, and it will stop. We are not just concerned about it. It defies everything we stand for,” Garber said. “I’ve spoken to ownership during the game. I have real confidence that it will stop.”
At the international level, awareness of the word’s connotation has grown in recent years.
FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has been more forcibly fining federations who do not discourage fans from using the chant or discipline those who do. The Brazilian soccer federation was fined a total of $900,000 for chants by fans during World Cup qualifying matches.
Cyd Zeigler, author of “Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports,” suggested that federations and leagues approach the chant in the same way they have approached racism.READ MORE: High School Teacher To Give Away Summer Earnings As Truck Driver: 'Because It's Needed'
“I appreciate that FIFA and MLS and various other soccer organizations have created public awareness campaigns, and that they are trying to identify individuals who engage in this chanting. But this goes far beyond those efforts. This is a cultural phenomenon that specifically harms one group of people, whether they intend it to be homophobic or not, it is,” Zeigler said. “And the way you stop this is the way FIFA has addressed issues of racism. You clear stadiums of all fans, and you hold matches in empty stadiums. If FIFA and Major League Soccer started stopping matches as soon as the first chant comes, clear the stadium and continue the match with no one watching, these chants would go away, really fast.”
Many supporters groups have taken on anti-discrimination efforts head-on, like Portland’s Timbers Army, which has often advocated for equality via its tifos, or fan displays. One such tifo in 2013 had supporters across the north end of the stadium holding rainbow-colored cards with a banner reading “Pride, Not Prejudice.”
While unique to soccer, and particularly in Northern, Central and South America, in recent years the chant has extended to the NFL during games held in Mexico.
GAME OF THE WEEK: It’s rivalry week in New York, with the Red Bulls hosting NYCFC on Saturday afternoon. NYCFC has won three of the last five games in the rivalry. As it has in the past few years, the match will feature two of the league’s biggest names: NYCFC’s David Villa and the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Both players are coming off good performances. Villa had his 400th goal for club and country last weekend in a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas at Yankee Stadium. The only other active players who’ve reached that milestone are Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Wright-Phillips had a pair of assists in the Red Bulls’ first road victory of the season, a 3-2 win over the Galaxy.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron is the league’s Player of the Week after scoring twice in a 4-1 victory over Montreal last weekend. The midfielder and teammate Josef Martinez lead the league in goals with six apiece.
STANDOFF OVER: The lengthy stalemate between the New England Revolution and midfielder Lee Nguyen ended Tuesday night when it was announced that Nguyen had been traded to Los Angeles FC in exchange for $700,000 in allocation money.
Nguyen hadn’t played for the Revs this season after he asked to be traded. The 31-year-old Nguyen has played with New England for the past six seasons, with 51 goals and 49 assists in 191 regular-season games.
LAFC could use his help right away: the team has lost playmaking forward Marco Urena for several weeks after facial surgery.
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