The major German soccer club Bayern Munich is facing disciplinary action from UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, after its fans held up a homophobic sign directed at Arsenal's Mesut Özil during a match Tuesday.
The sign - which branded Arsenal "Gay Gunners" and featured a crude caricature of the German midfielder - was captured by television cameras in the 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena and then widely circulated on social media.
"Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against FC Bayern München for discriminatory behaviour of their supporters (Article 14 Uefa Disciplinary Regulations), display of an illicit banner (Article 16(2e) DR) and late kick-off (Article 11(2g) DR) at their Uefa Champions League round of 16 match against Arsenal FC, the 1-1 draw in Germany on Tuesday," read a statement released by the governing body on Wednesday afternoon.
Reports in the media say Bayern is facing an $83,000 fine from UEFA, which will hear the case March 20. Ironically, Özil might be a member of the German World Cup team, so these same Bayern fans will be cheering like crazy for him come June. UEFA is trying to crack down on abusive fan behavior, which included Russian fans hurling monkey chants at a visiting black player.
Nothing in American sports fandom is as bad as some of the crap that happens in European soccer stadiums. Jason Collins has faced zero abuse at NBA arenas and I bet Michael Sam has the same experience. I would think otherwise if they were European soccer players.
After posting this, I received this email from Ryan Cowper, editor at Bavarian Football Works, SBNation's Bayern Munich blog:
I thought your recent article painted Bayern Munich as a whole in a really negative light. The actions of the individuals who put up that sign are absolutely deplorable and should be sanctioned by UEFA to make it clear that behavior of this type should have a zero tolerance policy. However, it also seemed to gloss over the actions of many of the fans associated with the club, including the main Bayern supporters group, the Sudkurve, who are very supportive of gay rights and have put together choreography espousing as much. There's much more to this story then just this single banner.
I appreciate Ryan reaching out and I realize these are always a minority of fans. But the reality is that European football fans have a bad reputation for racist and homophobic actions, which is why UEFA and other bodies are cracking down.