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New L.A. Soccer Team Already Dealing With Fans Chanting ‘P*to’ at Inaugural Game — Fun or Offensive?

Anti-gay or good clean fun?

The new Major League Soccer team the Los Angeles Football Club, or LAFC, had their inaugural game on Sunday, but already the team is confronting controversy over its fans use of a common chant during football games in Mexico that is widely considered a homophobic slur.

During kicks by the goalkeeper for the inaugural opposing team, the Seattle Sounders, fans were heard chanting the word “puto” just before the goalkeeper made contact with the soccer ball. In Spanish the word is translated as “fag” or “faggot,” but it is sometimes used generally to denote cowardice or betrayal in Mexican slang.

On Monday, after LAFC’s 1-0 win over Seattle at the new Banc of California Stadium at USC, the club and the 3252 Independent Supporters Union released a statement warning that fans taking part in the offensive chanting will be removed from stadium and have their season membership revoked after this weekend's second home-game.

“LAFC and The 3252 does not support or condone the use of offensive language and inappropriate chants,” the statement read. “They have no place at Banc of California Stadium and within our Club.”

Monica Trasandes, Spanish-language media director for LGBT advocacy group GLAAD, said the penalties set forth by the LAFC are a start.

A rendering of the Banc of California Stadium/via LAFC.

In recent years, the word has been used in soccer matches in Mexico and other countries. While media campaigns and soccer organizations have addressed the chant, Trasandes said soccer as an institution has not done enough in other countries to discourage its use. With MLS rising in the U.S., Trasandes said the negative impact of the word could be hard to understand if you are not gay or a member of the LGBT community.

“It’s hurtful because that word has so much power for so many Latino men, and women too, because you don’t have to be a gay man to have been hurt by that word,” Trasandes told L.A. Taco.

GLAAD has been tackling the issue for years with campaigns like #stoptheslurs.

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“It’s a name that for a lot of gay, bi, trans lesbian, people has been used as an insult, so I know that a lot of times people will say ‘We don’t mean it that way’,” Trasandes said. “People say to me ‘We don’t mean it like that, we mean it as synonymous with idiot or another word that is not homophobic,’ but I try to explain that your intention, unfortunately, has nothing to do with the power of that word and how the person hearing it has experienced that word their whole life.”

GLAAD worked with FIFA before the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, asking that the international soccer organization take a stand against anti-LGBT language. The group says it will continue to fight the issue leading up to the 2018 World Cup later this year in Russia. Despite threats or sanctions against Mexico's soccer federation, use of the chant persists.

Back at home, Trasandes hopes the penalties set forth by clubs like LAFC will work to harvest a more welcoming space during soccer games. The LAFC’s first LGBT Supporters Group, Pride Republic, also released a statement via Instagram:

“While we are excited and proud of LAFC’s win at our inaugural home game, we should seize the opportunity to foster a culture of inclusion and respect,” Pride Republic said. “Slurs of any form against any group ... have no place in our city and at our new stadium.”

Trasandes says it’s exciting that U.S. soccer is becoming more popular among Latinos and Latinas, but said she doesn’t want the beautiful game to expose Latinx fans to anti-LGBT slurs.  “The last thing I wanna see is that when [Latinx fans] go to a game they start chanting this word that they probably don’t ever hear at home, hopefully or anything else, but now is being introduced to them,” Trasandes said.

LAFC's next home game is Saturday, May 5, against FC Dallas.

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