The Spanish-language broadcast company showing World Cup matches in the United States took a stand this week against the possible gay slurs Mexico soccer fans chanted during group stage games over the last two weeks.
Mexico fans could be heard chanting “puto,” a word that can be translated to “male prostitute” and is often viewed as an equivalent to “faggot” in many Spanish-speaking countries.
Univision, the Spanish-language broadcast network, said in the statement that it did not condone the chants and would work to promote inclusive coverage of the tournament, according to a release from GLAAD, which reached out to the network after the chants were heard during Mexico’s match against Brazil.
“We recognize that during the game there may be language, or chants, from some fans that are offensive to some members of our television audience,” the network said in a statement provided by GLAAD. Although we realize this can happen in any televised sporting event, we do not, in any case, condone or endorse the use of such language. Univision Communications supports a World Cup that is inclusive, one that celebrates the diversity of the sport we love and can be enjoyed by all — absent what can be the hurtful consequences of certain words. In this regard, we strive to make sure that our own coverage and commentary is respectful and inclusive of all, including the gay community. This is our commitment to our audience, our community and our partners.”
Univision issued the statement before Mexico’s round of 16 match with The Netherlands on Sunday. ESPN, which is also showing the matches in the United States, mentioned the chants on air over the weekend. The chant could still be heard during the broadcasts of that match on both networks.
FIFA opened an investigation into the chants after both Mexican and Brazil fans could be heard yelling “puto” at opposing goalkeepers, but it concluded that the word was not meant as a homophobic slur.
The word’s meaning and the intent of fans using it has been the subject of debate since it was first heard. Mexico coach Miguel Herrera defended the chant, and Mexico fans have said that it is not meant to offend. But it is used as a gay slur in many Spanish-language speaking countries, and a Mexican anti-discrimination organization told GLAAD that the word’s use “equates being gay with being a coward.” As Gay4Soccer noted, its use has drawn apologies in forums both inside and outside sports.
The Netherlands eliminated Mexico from the World Cup Sunday, so it is unlikely the chant will be heard again. But it remains a regular feature at both national team and domestic league soccer matches throughout both Mexico and other Spanish-language countries. And both FIFA, which said it would target all forms of discrimination at this World Cup, and its broadcast partners like Univision will have to do more than issue statements condemning these chants if they want to deal with the homophobia that still exists throughout the soccer world.