UPDATE, April 10, 8:30 p.m. EDT: The Sebastian Lletget gay slur story has garnered national attention, with everyone from ESPN to the Los Angeles Times to Bleacher Report covering the controversy, all crediting Outsports with breaking the story.
UPDATE, April 10, 1 p.m. EDT: MLS has opened a formal investigation into the matter, stating:
Major League Soccer is committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, and we have no tolerance for discrimination and prejudice of any kind. We are aware of the use of a homophobic slur by an L.A. Galaxy player. MLS has begun a formal investigation regarding the language used by the player and more information will be provided as soon as it becomes available.
ORIGINAL REPORT: U.S. Men’s National Team and L.A. Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget posted an Instagram story Friday in which he called teammate Julian Araujo “puto” while slapping him on the neck. “Puto” is a gay slur in Spanish.
The video was posted by Lletget early Friday afternoon. It is from Lletget’s perspective and shows him walking up behind Araujo, seemingly outside some soccer facility, and slapping him on the neck. Lletget can be heard saying, “Eeeeeeehhhh puto!” The caption reads: “Unlucky brooooooo.”
Within minutes of Outsports contacting spokespeople for the Galaxy and USMNT, seeking comment, Lletget deleted the video. Less than two hours later, Lletget reached out to our Cyd Zeigler, telling him by phone he wanted to apologize for his actions and take full responsibility.
He sent Outsports this statement, which we are sharing in full:
“I messed up. Earlier today, I posted a video that included me using a derogatory slur in Spanish.
“I have taken down a video from my Instagram story but want to address its impact and not hide from this. I take full responsibility and ownership on what was an extremely poor and ill-thought phrase and have no excuse for my actions. I am sorry and know the pain that this term has caused for so many.
“I want to be part of the solution — not part of the problem — and continue to be an advocate and an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Those who know me know my character and heart. I will remain outspoken in my support and advocacy. My error doesn’t change that.
“Thanks for your accountability. I need to do and be better.”
The L.A. Galaxy sent Zeigler a statement of its own immediately following Lletget’s: ““The L.A. Galaxy do not condone homophobic or derogatory language of any kind. The club stands with the LGBTQ+ community and will address this matter internally.”
Lletget has been on the USMNT since 2017 and has represented the United States internationally since he was a teenager. He has been with the Galaxy since 2015.
Araujo is also on both the Galaxy and USMNT.
Major League Soccer has spent years trying to stop fans from chanting the “puto” gay slur during matches, including those hosted by both Los Angeles-based teams, LAFC and the Galaxy. In 2018, fans chanted the slur during the Galaxy’s Pride Night. MLS has said it has a zero-tolerance policy for this slur.
This now shifts the focus of the need for education about this word to the players.
It’s clear the years of conversation about the use of the “puto” slur failed to reach one of the nation’s best soccer players. This was not a passing mistake. Lletget used the word, recorded it, then shared it on his public Instagram profile with 689,000 followers. This was not a private interaction, and there was clear intent for the whole public to see it, as it did not register with the player that this might become a big deal.
Still, as we know, the use of slurs like this don’t mean the athlete is anti-gay. It will be interesting to see how this publicly plays out in the days ahead.
Araujo also shared the video from his Instagram story with the caption: “Y’all stay tuned....” The caption ended with a steam-from-nose face emoji.
MLS has a long history of suspending players known to have used gay slurs, even as early as 2012, when Marc Burch of the Seattle Sounders was suspended for three matches.
In 2013, the Galaxy traded for and signed Robbie Rogers, just months after Rogers came out publicly as gay. Rogers said an opponent called him a gay slur while he was playing in MLS. Rogers and Lletget were teammates with the Galaxy.
The Galaxy’s next preseason match is tomorrow, Saturday, April 10, at home against Real Salt Lake. Their regular-season opener is April 18 at Inter Miami.
This story is developing. Bookmark this page for updates as we get them.