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Olympic fans taunt lesbian soccer players with homophobic chant

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Reports say that out LGBT soccer players from the United States, Canada and Australia had to endure anti-gay chants from fans in their opening matches in Rio.

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Megan Rapinoe plays for Team USA
Megan Rapinoe plays for Team USA
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Soccer fans at the opening matches of the Olympic women's soccer tournament chanted homophobic slurs, among other horrible things, at various players on Wednesday. Reports from various sources say the Portuguese term "bicha" was tossed around liberally by fans during the matches; That is similar to the "puto" chants we have heard from fans of Mexico and other Latin American countries.

While some are claiming that the chant was "Zika," various outlets have reported hearing both "Zika" and "bicha" during the matches.

The Los Angeles Times' Kevin Baxter, who is in Brazil covering the Olympics, said that the homophobic slur was aimed at the U.S. Women's National Team during its 2-0 victory over New Zealand on Wednesday. At least one of the USWNT players -- Megan Rapinoe -- is gay, as is head coach Jill Ellis. While the "Zika" chants aimed at Hope Solo were bad enough, targeting out LGBT people with anti-gay slurs is the lowest of the low.

To be clear, reports say that, despite sounding similar, there were separate chants of "Zika" and "bicha."

"It is personally hurtful," Rapinoe told Baxter. "I think sort of a mob mentality kind of takes over a little bit."

The chant surfaced during the Australia-Canada match as well, in which at least four players identify publicly as LGBT. One of those players is Stephanie Labbé, the Canadian goalkeeper. Given the chant surfaces when the goalkeeper occupies the ball, it's particularly gross that they would use it specifically targeting Labbé.

The use of "bicha" by fans in men's matches isn't new. Janet Lever talks about it in her 1995 book, Soccer Madness: Brazil's Passion for the World's Most Popular Sport, describing up to 100,000 people chanting the slur in unison. However, it's a bit odd for the slur to surface in women's matches, as it's a term aimed at men.

What will the IOC do to stop this? It's clear that FIFA's fining of the teams with offending fans hasn't sent home the message. I imagine if the IOC ordered stadiums cleared of fans when these chants arise, that might have a more impactful effect on the slurs' usage. Don't expect the IOC to have the guts to do that anytime soon. Hell, it's the Brazilian fans chanting in Portuguese, so the host nation may not have a big problem with it.