John M. Becker

World Cup Officials Say Homophobic Slur is A-OK

Filed By John M. Becker | June 29, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: anti-gay slur, ESPN, Mexico, Outsports, puto, soccer, Univision, World Cup

mexico-world-cup-fans.jpgIn case you missed it last week, officials at the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) -- soccer's international governing body -- essentially gave the green light to the use of anti-gay chants, specifically the Spanish word "puto," at the World Cup.

Reuters reports:

Mexican fans have been cleared of anti-gay chants in their opening World Cup match against Cameroon on June 13 and the Mexico FA will not be punished, FIFA said on Monday.

Mexico were reported for the slurs allegedly heard during their Group A clash in Natal.

"The Disciplinary Committee has decided that the incident in question is not considered insulting in this specific context. All charges against the Mexican FA have been dismissed," FIFA said in a statement.

But as Slate's Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo explains, FIFA's flimsy excuse -- that the term isn't anti-gay in the context of a soccer match -- is utterly absurd.

Despite how it sounds, puto does not mean point or punt. In fact, the word is a clear, if somewhat semantically sophisticated, anti-gay slur, which is why its use by Mexican fans has been so controversial during this World Cup...

Fans yell puto, which roughly means gay prostitute, at the opposing team's goalkeeper as a tactic to distract him from his task, a common enough practice in all sports. In this case, the chant is a very specific, homophobic double-entendre, playing on the concept of letting someone "score a goal on you." In Spanish, to score a goal is meter un gol. That translates literally as to put a goal in, so when a goalie fails at his job, he dejó que se la metieran, or allowed someone to stick it in. You see where this is going: The embarrassment of allowing a goal in your net is akin to being on the receiving end of anal sex--you know, like a gay guy.

FIFA is shrugging its shoulders here because the Mexican chant, while clearly offensive, is not an explicit faggot (or maricón in this case). I am certain that if fans were chanting that, Mexican coach Miguel Herrera couldn't get away with saying, "FIFA should be worried about more serious things." Apparently, faggot and gay whore are not quite the same, though the malice of their intent seems difficult to separate.

That's right, folks: we have a blatantly anti-gay slur that's being sanctioned in front of the entire world by an international athletic body. Disgusting, right?

But wait, there's more -- meet me after the jump.

Miguel Herrera, the coach of Mexico's soccer team, defends his fans' use of the slur:

Herrera says Mexico fans shouting the slur as the rival team's goalkeeper takes a goal kick is "not that bad." He says "We're with our fans. It's something they do to pressure the opposing goalkeeper."

FIFA's and Herrera's defense of "puto" put them at odds with the Mexican government's National Council to Prevent Discrimination, which has called on fans to stop using the word since at least 2012.

In response to complaints from pro-LGBT soccer fans, World Cup watchers, and LGBT advocacy groups, ESPN told Outsports's Jim Buzinski that the network would be "vigilant" in their efforts to prevent the anti-gay slur from being broadcast in the future.

mexico-world-cup-fans-2.jpgBut they didn't do a very good job of it: chants of "puto" could be heard during the broadcast of last week's Mexico-Croatia game and today's match against the Netherlands.

Both ESPN and Univision aired the derogatory word. ESPN claims that because they grab their audio feed from FIFA's microphones, their ability to remove "puto" from the airwaves is limited. (And as noted above, FIFA -- which defends the ugly slur -- isn't about to make any effort on their end.)

Andres Aradillas-Lopez, who first alerted Outsports to the "puto" chant, isn't buying it:

"ESPN must answer to its American audience why on Earth they think broadcasting this slur multiple times in a game is OK. And Univision must answer too. They may be a Spanish-speaking network, but they are still operating in U.S soil, where something like this is unacceptable. The same day I wrote Outsports about this, I also emailed ESPN's ombudsman without a response. I have only one question for them: Why is it OK to broadcast the word "faggot" on TV? This is exactly what is happening here: A term with multiple connotations, ranging from "weak" to an outright gay slur is being yelled on TV. Is this OK because FIFA (the benchmark of morality) says it is OK?"

The Dutch defeated Mexico today 2-1, knocking them out of the World Cup. But even though the Mexican soccer fans' anti-gay chants may be over for now, they've successfully polluted the minds of new generations with homophobic bigotry:

How profoundly sad. Shame on all who use and defend this vile slur.


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