Major League Soccer star Sebastian Lletget has been suspended two matches and fined an undisclosed amount by the league for posting a video to social media April 9 that contained a homophobic slur.
In the since-deleted video, Lletget, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy, can be seen playfully slapping the head of teammate Julian Araujo and calling him a "puto" following practice earlier this month. "Puto" is a derogatory Spanish slur for a gay man. Lletget deleted the video and apologized a short time later after an outcry from outraged fans. The suspension means he will miss matches against New York and Seattle this weekend, although some questioned the severity and timing of the punishment.
"I messed up and I'm trying to take full responsibility for it," Lletget said in a statement. "I said a word that shouldn't have been said. And although there's been a lot of discussion and debate about the meaning of the word because of different dialects in Spanish and cultures, the truth is it's a harmful word and it shouldn't have been said."
MLS issued a statement saying they acknowledged and appreciated Lletget's "prompt apology and the accountability he has taken for his actions."
Lletget has played attacking midfielder on the Galaxy since 2015. He has been a member of the U.S. men's national team since 2017, and he also represented the U.S. on the men's under-23, under-20, and under-17 national teams.
"Moving forward, I really do want to do my part," Lletget continued in his statement. "I hate that this door has been opened this way, but I've always wanted to be involved in social causes and I've always wanted to be an ally. I hope there's a silver lining and now the door is open, and I'm more than happy to walk through it and take it on and help and help different communities."
The video was posted early in April to Lletget's Instagram. The post sparked immediate outrage, and he deleted the video a short time later. A copy of the original was reposted by OutSports to YouTube.
"Unlucky broooooo," Lletget captioned the notorious short.
Not long after the original video was taken down, Lletget reached out to Cyd Ziegler of OutSports to offer an unsolicited apology for the post and assure fans the video did not reflect his true feelings or sentiments about the LGBTQ+ community.
"Those who know me know my character and heart," he wrote Ziegler, adding that he needed to "do and be better."
Lletget's two-match suspension is one match less than similar suspensions handed out in the past for use of homophobic language. Alan Gordon, Marc Burch, and Colin Clark all received three-match suspensions for uttering antigay slurs. No reason was given for the disparity in punishments, although the three earlier offenses took place during match play while Lletget's did not.
Some critics voiced concern about the timing of the announcement of the punishment, noting the two-week delay allowed Lletget to participate in last week's season-opening win over Inter Miami. The earlier punishments of Gordon, Burch, and Clark were all announced within four days. Appeals might also have delayed the announcement.
Many fans expressed not just dismay at Lletget's utterances but surprise as well. While not specifically known as an LGBTQ+ ally in most circles, his longtime partner is singer and actress Becky G, who made history portraying the first LGBTQ+ superhero in the 2017 Power Rangers reboot.
For now, Lletget fears a moment's stupidity will overshadow who he is as a person. He made clear once again he is sorry, and wants to make things right.
"This was a poor decision on my end and it was a moment of just pure stupidity. I'm a human, I made a mistake and that's simply what happened," he said. "But now I want to rectify that."