It seems like soccer was “about to take off” in the U.S. for the last fifteen years. But lately, it has seemed that soccer was about to take of in the U.S. The MLS is growing, and a brand new team played its first game in front of 55,000 cheering and chanting fans.
That might sound like a good thing, because it usually is, but it wasn’t this time.
In fact the only way it could have gotten much worse was with an actual lynching. On Monday, new fans of the MLS Atlanta United team joined together by chanting the word “¡Puto!” just as the opposing team’s goalie was about to kick the ball.
The word is extremely offensive in the Spanish language and is usually used as a homophobic slur.
It has become a popular chant among the Mexican soccer fan base and even drew criticism from FIFA officials during the World Cup. The Mexican Football Federation has been working on a campaign to remove the chant from the game.
How many fans were actually taking part in the chant isn’t exactly clear, but it was enough to draw the attention the club, that issued a statement addressing the chant:
“Atlanta United does not support or condone the use of offensive language,” the statement said. “We strive to foster a positive, enthusiastic and inclusive environment for all fans, and inappropriate chants have no place at our matches. Fans found to be participating in this behavior will be subject to removal from the building.”
Only one day into their clubs existence and they are already issuing statements. Not a great sign.
There is the question as to whether or not the majority of those taking part knew what they were saying. Many people might have been unaware of the offensive nature of word, or might have simply been repeating something they’d heard at another soccer game elsewhere.
While you’d like to avoid something like this happening even once, there is certainly no excuse for something like this to happen twice. The first time can be reasonably chalked up to ignorance. The second time is hate.