Four LGBTQ soccer fans say they were subjected to an onslaught of anti-gay slurs while attending the championship match of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup at Soldier Field, and nobody did anything about it.
Now, they’re suing Soldier Field for violating the Illinois Human Rights Act.
The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Cook County state court, says the Chicago Park District, Soldier Field and its management company denied them equal enjoyment of the final match. The plaintiffs are Jordan Penland, Karl Gerner, Edward R. Burke and Paul C. Burke.
The lawsuit was first reported by Law360.com.
Prior to the match between the U.S. and Mexico, the four plaintiffs say they urged Soldier Field and and the Chicago Parks District to adopt FIFA’s three-step procedure for dealing with discriminatory incidents. Fans of Mexico’s national team often belt out homophobic slurs during matches, most notably “puto” — which roughly translates to “male prostitute.”
FIFA’s three-step protocol calls for stadiums to stop play and make public announcements condemning discrimination when hateful behavior occurs. If the conduct continues, the policy recommends suspending or abandoning the match.
The four men, who wore rainbow U.S. national team jerseys to support Pride Month, reported the chants to stadium personnel, but no action was taken, according to the complaint.
“More than 80 percent of the fans in attendance at Soldier Field supported Mexico and engaged in anti-gay misconduct that was not addressed or stopped by the Chicago Park District, Soldier Field, or its management company,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit says the Illinois Department of Human Rights later investigated the episode, and concluded that Soldier Field violated the state’s Human Rights Act by failing to reprimand or eject those who were chanting the slur.
The men are seeking a cease-and-desist order preventing Soldier Field from allowing discriminatory behavior in the future, as well as civil penalties and punitive damages.
“Just as an ethnic group should not be subjected to mass chants of racial slurs, LGBT Americans should not be subjected to anti-gay slurs,” Mark A. Flessner, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told Law360.
Two years later, Mexico’s fans are still engaging in homophobic behavior. Last month, FIFA finally placed a stringent penalty on Mexico’s soccer federation for slurs that were shouted during two Olympic qualifying games in March. Spectators are banned from the Mexican men’s national soccer team’s next two CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches, which take place in September and October.
Unfortunately, FIFA’s investigation didn’t stop Mexico’s fans from shouting “puto” on U.S. soil. They chanted the slur during Mexico’s contest against Costa Rica last month in Denver, and then again when Mexico faced off against the U.S.
Both matches were halted (in accordance to Colorado state law and following FIFA protocol), but the behavior didn’t stop.
However, employees at Soldier Field didn’t even try, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs say the chant occurred more than 25 times during the match, and it was repeated by “tens of thousands” of fans.
And no action was taken whatsoever — even an announcement over the stadium loudspeaker.
“Both the Human Rights Act and the Management Contract require Soldier Field and its management company to provide LGBT fans with full, equal, and safe enjoyment of any event held at Soldier Field, including the Gold Cup Final,” the complaint says.