There is something seriously wrong with Mexican soccer fans who continue to chant the gay slur "puto," despite pleas to stop from the national team, fines from FIFA and the mass shooting of LGBT people in Orlando.
This spectacle was on display Saturday night in Santa Clara, Calif., when Chile crushed Mexico, 7-0, in a COPA America quarterfinal. The first "puto" chant was heard 42 seconds in the game when Chile's goalie did a free kick. It continued throughout the first half, then the crowd got silent as Chile began its scoring barrage. As the goals against Mexico mounted, the fans — showing how little class they have — started chanting it at Guillermo Ochoa, their own goalie.
It is utter nonsense for anyone to claim that "puto" is some harmless word divorced from homophobia, and we have written numerous articles on the subject (I also came across this brilliant piece that put it in context with Orlando). A Mexican gay rights advocate put it perfectly in an article in the New York Times (boldface is my addition):
"The whole point is that the choice of this word is absolutely linked to a negative, homophobic meaning," said Enrique Torre Molina, a Mexican who is campaign manager at All Out, an international gay rights organization. "‘Puto' is the word many gay men have been called in school or even by family members to mock us or put us down. ‘Puto' is the word many gay men hear as they're being beaten, sometimes to death, in the daily homophobic crimes committed in Latin America."
He added: "What is kind of infuriating, especially after tragedies like the Orlando shooting and any other homophobic crime that happens, is to read and hear people refusing to let it go after having so many gay men literally asking for them to drop it. If you have a group of people saying, 'Hey, when you use this word, it hurts,' why not drop it?"
To chant it in a U.S. stadium after 49 LGBT people were murdered in a gay nightclub — the majority of them Latino from Spanish-speaking households— is sickening and indefensible.
Mexican journos in the press box are openly wondering when the "This result is Karma for yelling PUTO after #Orlando" story is written.— Colin Etnire (@ColinEtnire) June 19, 2016
Even Univision, which broadcast the game in Spanish in the U.S., warned that the audience might hear offensive words and "puto" is the only word they could have been talking about.
FIFA, the world governing board of soccer, fined the Mexican Soccer Federation for three games where fans continued to chant "puto." Given that the word was heard numerous times during the COPA America, more fines need to be assessed. And FIFA needs to consider making Mexico play a home game without any fans. This "tradition" needs to stop.
I feel bad for the Mexican team, whose players have implored the fans to stop the chant. But with Mexico being eliminated, the word won't pollute the airways during the final three matches in the COPA.