The United States Men’s National Team faced Mexico in the CONCACAF Nation’s League final on Sunday. Many people were waiting to see how officials handle Mexico fans chanting the gay slur “puto.”
Now we know: Mexico fans chanted the gay slur.
On Thursday, the match between Mexico and Costa Rica — won by Mexico on penalty kicks, 5-4 — was halted because Mexico fans couldn’t resist raining the gay slur down on Empower Field at Mile High in Denver. The referee waited until the final minutes of the match to tack action.
CONCACAF Nations League tweeted at the time:
Due to discriminatory chanting, the referee has stopped the match for up to three minutes. This action is part of @Concacaf's antidiscrimination protocol #WhatsWrongIsWrong pic.twitter.com/7kTgB36tfv— Concacaf Nations League (@CNationsLeague) June 4, 2021
Officials also halted a Mexico friendly against Iceland on May 29 when fans echoed the gay slur through AT&T Stadiu. You can see that here.
The match on Sunday was a real test for CONCACAF, FIFA, venue staff at Empower Field at Mile High, the game officials and everyone else associated with the match. FIFA has made it clear that the chanting of the slur will not be tolerated and has laid out a three-step process to address the situation. Mexican soccer officials have tried to stop Mexico fans from using the slur.
So far the fans have not relented.
On top of the international soccer rules, the match took place in Denver, Colo., where non-discrimination laws are clear and powerful. Colorado law on “Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation” states:
It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful . . . to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of . . . sex [or] sexual orientation . . . the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.
There is no doubt that the location of the match is a “place of public accommodation” — the state owns the stadium — and thus subject to the law. Beyond FIFA rules, it was unlawful for the match to be held when groups of fans are chanting gay slurs.
Colorado law mandates that the chanting of the slur result in the match being halted. If it continues, more drastic measures like the clearing of the stadium or the abandoning of the match are mandated by law to be explored.
Officials did halt the Mexico vs. United States match. But that won’t stop Mexico fans from continuing to use the slur.
While some people push back against the notion that calling someone a “male prostitute” (English translation for “puto”) is anti-gay, that ship has sailed long ago. Most recently, Major League Soccer fined and suspended USMNT player Sebastian Lletget for directing the slur toward a teammate in a private setting (and then sharing it on Instagram).
Lletget nearly scored a goal for the United States’ in its semifinal win over Honduras on Thursday and should be on the pitch for Sunday’s match.
Sunday’s Mexico-USA match was a seminal moment on whether international soccer is willing to take the handling of the “puto” chant to the next level, beyond brief pauses in a match.
According to FIFA rules, after other attempts to stop the chant, the referee has the ability to abandon the match.
How seriously FIFA and CONCACAF are taking homophobia hangs in the balance. They took some action on Sunday, but again, unless more drastic measures are taken in the future, this will never stop.