Cucho Hernandez, a forward with the Columbus Crew, has been suspended one game by Major League Soccer for calling an opponent the gay slur “puto” during a match against the Portland Timbers on Sept. 18, Outsports has learned.
The league has, in the past, suspended players two or three games for the use of homophobic language.
Making this situation a bit different are a couple factors. First, Hernandez was just brought from Colombia to Columbus in the last couple of months. By all accounts, “puto” is a more-common word in Colombia, and Hernandez may not have been fully aware of its meaning.
Second, MLS said in a statement that Hernandez never received mandated training when he arrived at Columbus — Training that includes educating players about offensive language, including “puto.”
It seems to have been a situation complicated by those factors — and MLS settled on one match. That’s still stronger than the response other leagues have when this happens.
The suspension comes at an inopportune time for the Crew as they are in the hunt for a playoff berth.
“I accept the outcome of the League’s ruling and sincerely apologize for the harmful language I used during our recent match against the Portland Timbers,” Hernandez said in a statement. “I understand that my language was unacceptable and plan to reach out to the Timbers organization and the player to offer my apologies and fully intend to learn from this situation. I also apologize to my teammates and our fans as this is a critical time of the season.”
Interestingly, he did not apologize to gay men or the LGBT community, who are the most-harmed by homophobic language.
“We are disappointed that our player used disrespectful and offensive language directed to an opponent and we will take this as an opportunity to better educate our players and learn from this,” said Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Cucho expressed immediate remorse for his unacceptable language choice and volunteered to apologize to the Timbers organization and participate in sensitivity training.”
Much like the handling of Anthony Edwards’ homophobic language in the NBA, neither the player, the team or the league mentions homophobia, gay men or the LGBT community in any of their statements.
Without Outsports’ knowledge of the Hernandez situation, there would be no way to know what Hernandez said, or that it was homophobic in nature. It could have been racist, it could have been sexist — We wouldn’t know.
It’s why we at Outsports are so adamant that homophobic language be addressed clearly and out in the open. Without that, the opportunity for growth is stunted. In the past, MLS has specifically called out the homophobic slur when Sebastian Lletget said “puto” in an Instagram post.
Regardless, MLS has a strong history of LGBT inclusion and handling of these issues. There’s a reason it’s the only league to have two different out gay players play in regular-season matches, and why so many of Outsports readers consider MLS the most LGBT-inclusive of all the Big Five men’s sports.