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ESPN gives platform to Mexico fans chanting anti-gay ‘puto’ slur

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When Mexico soccer fans chanted anti-gay ‘puto’ slur on 9/11, ESPN highlighted the fans chanting it.

Soccer: International Friendly Soccer-Mexico at USA
Mexico fans unleashed a torrent of homophobia on the Nashville crowd in Mexico’s friendly against Team USA.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the U.S. Men’s National Team hosted Mexico in a friendly in Nashville. Some of the Mexico fans were not so friendly, unleashing a barrage of anti-gay “puto” chants on the American team as ESPN broadcast the loud chant and even highlighted some of the fans as they were chanting the slur. You can see one clip of the game in the video above.

ESPN shared this statement on the game with Outsports:

We are extremely sensitive to the offensive chants. We’ve taken steps to minimize the possibility of them impacting our telecasts, including lowering the audio on crowd microphones, though it can be a challenge to completely eliminate them. In this case, unfortunately, some audio from the crowd near the booth was picked up through the headset microphones of our commentators. Despite being extra mindful of it, we clearly could’ve done a better job not showing any fans chanting and also alerting our viewers to the inappropriate nature of those chants during the game. We will continue to be ever mindful of this issue going forward and we always appreciate the feedback.

ESPN’s broadcast of the slur was quickly criticized on Twitter by various viewers.

Last year CBS knew it was going to have to deal with the “puto” chant at the NFL game in Mexico City between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders. The network worked with its production crew ahead of time to mask the disgusting chant.

When ESPN broadcast an NFL game from Mexico City in 2016, they broadcast the slur.

When it came time for ESPN to broadcast a game featuring Mexico soccer fans in 2018 this week — a match any reasonable person would have known would include the slur — the network again aired, and this time prominently featured, the chanting of this anti-gay slur. They know exactly when the chant would be done — during a goal kick of the opposing team — and they chose to cut at that moment to Mexico fans who would likely be chanting the slur. And if the production staff didn’t know about this, that suggests eliminating this is not a priority for the network.

After the repeated chant, no comment from announcers, no masking of the slur, no muting of the audio.

At this point, ESPN is complicit in spreading this anti-gay slur across the entire United States. I have personally spoken to people at ESPN about this, and they have claimed it’s “impossible” to mute the sound from the fans during its broadcast despite the network controlling the audio of the match.

As we at Outsports have said over and over, there is no way Mexico fans will stop doing this unless their team plays in empty stadiums. People on Twitter pointed to the powers in soccer as the parties complicit in this homophobic barrage, and they are 100% correct:

As I say every time I am critical of ESPN (usually about this “puto” issue), I think the network has done so many great pro-LGBTQ things from hiring to giving awards to coverage of LGBTQ issues.

However, we are asking for and asserting two things, which we have asked for and asserted before to no avail:

1) That Mexico’s soccer team plays its soccer games for the foreseeable future in empty stadiums. Anything short continues to make FIFA and every other soccer governing body complicit with the chanting of this slur;

2) ESPN finally and eternally ban this slur from its airwaves, doing whatever it takes to make sure no fan has to hear or see this chant broadcast ever again.

FIFA and soccer governing bodies choose where and how these matches are played. ESPN chooses what it broadcasts. Right now, they are both choosing to allow this anti-gay chant to echo through stadiums and across all of the United States.