Four men are suing Chicago’s Soldier Field, saying they were subjected to anti-LGBTQ+ slurs during a soccer game there in 2019 and stadium personnel did nothing to stop it.
The men, who identify as members of the queer community, were attending the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s championship match between the U.S. and Mexico when the behavior took place, Outsports reports. (The original coverage was on Law360, which has a paywall.)
In the suit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, they say chanting of “puto,” an antigay slur that translates loosely to “male prostitute,” occurred at least 25 times during the match, and “tens of thousands” of fans joined in. The men, who were wearing rainbow jerseys, asked stadium workers to take some action to stop the chants, but nothing happened, according to the suit.
“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 says.
“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,” Outsports reports. “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.”
The men, identified in the suit as Jordan Penland, Karl Gerner, Edward R. Burke, and Paul C. Burke, say that prior to the game, they had urged Soldier Field and the park district to adopt FIFA’s procedure for dealing with slurs, which includes announcing over stadium loudspeakers that discrimination will not be tolerated and, if the slurs don’t stop, pausing or ending the match. Games under FIFA’s purview have been stopped when slurs were chanted, but that didn’t happen at the Gold Cup game, sponsored by a different sports association, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football. Soldier Field workers, however, should have done something, the plaintiffs say.
“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 reads. Soldier Field is best known as the home of the Chicago Bears NFL team, and it hosts many other sports events as well as concerts.
“Just as an ethnic group should not be subjected to mass chants of racial slurs, LGBT Americans should not be subjected to antigay slurs,” Mark A. Flessner, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told Law360.