Update Sept. 7, 9:50amPT: In the 73rd minute, US Soccer implemented phase 1 of FIFA’s protocol: They made an announcement. They never got to Phase 2, which would have been a stoppage of play. Mexico easily defeated the USMNT 3-0.
Update Sept. 6, 1:25pmPT: US Soccer sent a message in both Spanish and English to ticket holders about avoiding homophobic “chants or gestures” at the match tonight. In the past, messages like this have been ignored by Mexico fans. US Soccer will find out tonight if it helps.
Today the U.S. Soccer Federation is going to tell the world how it really feels about the anti-gay “puto” chant that has marred soccer in the United States and internationally for years.
When the U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Mexico in a friendly match at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. today, the Mexico fans are almost assured to chant “puto” when the American goalie attempts a goal kick. Fans of Mexico, Brazil and other Central and South American countries chant the anti-gay slur to get under the skin of the opposing goalie.
FIFA has regularly fined national governing bodies when their fans have engaged in this bigoted chanting, but the chants persist. Toothless public-service announcements in stadiums have, anecdotally, resulted in even louder anti-gay chants.
FIFA has also released guidelines that call for the match to be suspended by the referee while public announcements are made to stop the anti-gay chanting. If the first two attempts to quell the chant are not successful, the referee is authorized to “abandon the match.”
In the last few weeks, referees in France and Brazil have applied the FIFA guidelines. In both cases the referee asked players or coaches to address the crowd and ask that they stop.
Now the U.S. Soccer Federation will have its turn at the wheel. While they’ve been able to hide behind CONCACAF and other organizations when the chant has popped up at various USMNT matches, this time it’s all on US Soccer.
Further mandating U.S. Soccer takes FIFA’s prescribed steps of pausing the match is New Jersey’s public accommodations law, which makes it illegal for U.S. Soccer and MetLife Stadium to allow the match to continue while the chant is going.
From the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety:
“The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (N.J.S.A. 10:5-12) (LAD) makes it unlawful to subject people to discrimination or harassment based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, breastfeeding, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression...”
If the chant does rear its ugly head in the match against Mexico today, U.S. Soccer’s response will tell us how the organization’s leaders really feel about homophobia in soccer.
If the referee suspends the match, it will be affirmation of the organization’s push to build a more inclusive sport. If the chanting does not stop through two attempts to quash it, the match being a “friendly” will be the perfect opportunity to pull a match-abandonment heard ‘round the world.
Yet if the chant does ring through the stadium and the referee does nothing, then everything U.S. Soccer has done to claim it stands for equality and inclusion of LGBTQ people will be erased with the snap of a finger.
At this match today, the U.S. Soccer Federation will likely have the opportunity to help lead the world on the issue of anti-gay chants. Let’s hope they take the opportunity.