LAFC quickly acts after homophobic chant

Fans of Los Angeles FC celebrate their extra time win against Seattle Sounders. AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu.

Los Angeles FC has acted quickly to condemn a homophobic chant, pledging to expel anyone who uses it from the team's new downtown stadium. But the slur in question has been plaguing international soccer for quite a while now.

The derogatory Spanish word could be heard on the television broadcast of last weekend's game between LAFC and the Seattle Sounders during goal kicks. The game was the first at Banc of California Stadium.

The team's LGBT supporters group, LAFC Pride Republic, called on club officials and the 3252 supporters' group to take a strong stand against the chants. They did.

"The offensive goal kick chant is wrong and not what we are about. We ask that all of our fans and supporters work to hold each other accountable to eliminate this from Banc of California Stadium," LAFC President Tom Penn and 3252 President Josef Zacher said in a joint statement.

Last season, after similar chants were heard at Atlanta United's debut MLS game, the club was also quick to issue a condemnation. Similar chants have been heard throughout the years, including during a 2016 rivalry game between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes.

That same season, Chicago general manger Nelson Rodriguez took a bold stand against the chant, addressing fans following a performance of the national anthem by the city's Gay Men's Chorus.

"An inappropriate and offensive chant has been used by some of our fans," Rodriguez said. "It is unbecoming and certainly not reflective of the great city that we live in, and the best fans in Major League Soccer."

MLS has always acted swiftly to discourage such behavior. The league has had a program in place since last season called Don't Cross the Line, which seeks to promote an "atmosphere of diversity, equality and inclusion throughout the soccer community." Supporters are encouraged to take a stand against discrimination.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber made his feelings clear about the chant when he spoke to reporters at the half of Sunday night's game.

"It shouldn't happen, and it will stop. We are not just concerned about it. It defies everything we stand for," Garber said. "I've spoken to ownership during the game. I have real confidence that it will stop."

At the international level, awareness of the word's connotation has grown in recent years.

FIFA, soccer's international governing body, has been more forcibly fining federations who do not discourage fans from using the chant or discipline those who do. The Brazilian soccer federation was fined a total of $900,000 for chants by fans during World Cup qualifying matches.

Cyd Zeigler, author of "Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports," suggested that federations and leagues approach the chant in the same way they have approached racism.

"I appreciate that FIFA and MLS and various other soccer organizations have created public awareness campaigns, and that they are trying to identify individuals who engage in this chanting. But this goes far beyond those efforts. This is a cultural phenomenon that specifically harms one group of people, whether they intend it to be homophobic or not, it is," Zeigler said. "And the way you stop this is the way FIFA has addressed issues of racism. You clear stadiums of all fans, and you hold matches in empty stadiums. If FIFA and Major League Soccer started stopping matches as soon as the first chant comes, clear the stadium and continue the match with no one watching, these chants would go away, really fast."

Many supporters groups have taken on anti-discrimination efforts head-on, like Portland's Timbers Army, which has often advocated for equality via its tifos, or fan displays. One such tifo in 2013 had supporters across the north end of the stadium holding rainbow-colored cards with a banner reading "Pride, Not Prejudice."

While unique to soccer, and particularly in Northern, Central and South America, in recent years the chant has extended to the NFL during games held in Mexico.

Copyright Associated Press, all rights reserved.

The Gayly. May 3, 2018. 10:49 a.m. CST.