Only days after the Orlando shooting, which left 49 people dead at a gay club, Mexican soccer fans were warned not to chant anything that was “derogatory or offensive during our matches” by CONCACAF, the governing body of the North and Central America and Caribbean region.
Soccer fans held a moment of silence last Friday before the Venezuela-Mexico match in Houston to honor the victims of the massacre at Pulse on its Latin night.
The "puto" chant, which is considered homophobic by many, is typically used by Mexican soccer fans when the opposing team has the ball, and on this night it was no different, reports The Mercury News, a newspaper in Northern California. When Dani Hernandez, goalkeeper for the Venezuelan team, had the ball in his hands, fans shouted, “Eh, puto!"
Officials with the Copa America soccer tournament were quick to respond with a statement, saying, "This behavior does not reflect the true spirit of football and must be stopped." In a tweet posted by the national Mexican soccer team's official account Saturday, the day after the match with the Venezuelan team, management said, “Our position on any discriminatory act or cry is damning."
Copa America isn't the only group that is asking Mexican soccer fans to do away with shouting "puto" at games. The national Mexican soccer team faces potentially being banned from tournament, or playing in empty stadium if it does not get fans to desist, reports The Mercury News.
The word "puto" carries different meanings depending on the context — it can be a homophobic slur, but it can also mean coward or male prostitute. Despite these multiple meanings, though, there is no doubt that it is "offensive," said Leon Krauze, a Mexican journalist for Univision, based in Los Angeles.
Not only are Copa America and the national Mexican team campaigning for the end of the homophobic chant, but so are FIFA, the international governing board for soccer, and GLAAD, an LGBT organization.
FIFA fined the Mexican team $57,000 last month for not being able to control the use of the slur at its games. The team has responded by creating a campaign and releasing public service announcement to tell fans why they should not use the slur. The team started a campaign using the hashtag #YaPárale, which translates to "just stop it." In April the team released PSA videos featuring players from the team called "Abrazados por el Fútbol" ("Hugging for Soccer”) aimed at getting fans on board with eliminating the word from their vocabularies — at games, at least.
GLAAD started a campaign of its own against the slur, called #STOPTHESLURS. The effort to stop the use of the word at Mexican soccer games goes as far back as 2014, when GLAAD asked FIFA to take a stand against the homophobic word. At the time, FIFA did not respond, but since then has taken an active role, as evidenced by the penalty for the Mexican team.
So what will it take? Mexican midfielder Hector Herrera isn't sure change will come easy. "I think it is a tradition that has gone on for years," he said at a Spanish-language news conference, reports The Mercury News. "I don't think you can come in and take it away from one day to the next. It's difficult to get so many people to change it."