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FIFA seeks to combat homophobia in soccer

Chile, Mexico among countries fined for anti-gay fans

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Jean Wyllys, gay news, Washington Blade, FIFA

‘Sport should give us pride and never should come with discrimination,’ said gay Brazilian Congressman Jean Wyllys.
(Photo by Cristina Gallo/Agência Senado; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Homophobia remains a serious problem in global soccer in spite of FIFA’s efforts to fight it.

Article 67 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code states “the home association or home club is liable for improper conduct among spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight, and, depending on the situation, may be fined.” The provision also says “the visiting association or visiting club is liable for improper conduct among its own group of spectators, regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight, and, depending on the situation, maybe fined.”

“Improper conduct includes violence towards persons or objects, letting off incendiary devices, throwing missiles, displaying insulting or political slogans in any form, uttering insulting words or sounds, or invading the pitch,” reads Article 67.

Article 67 does not specifically include sexual orientation, but FIFA has used it to sanction countries over their fans’ anti-gay conduct.

FIFA since 2015 has fined Chile 180,000 Swiss francs ($187,149) for “homophobic chants by supporters” and “improper conduct among spectators” that included “homophobic chants” and “homophobic and insulting chants.” Three of the nine incidents that prompted FIFA to fine the South American country also resulted in banning matches at the National Stadium in Santiago.

FIFA imposed a one-game ban on official matches at the Metropolitan Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and fined the country 40,000 Swiss francs ($41,589) after fans shouted “homophobic chants” and threw water bottles during a Nov. 11, 2016, game against Panama.

FIFA since November 2015 has fined Mexico 130,000 Swiss francs ($135,163) for “homophobic chants” among its supporters during matches against the U.S., El Salvador, Canada, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica.

Mexican soccer fans routinely taunt an opposing team’s goalkeeper by chanting “puto,” which roughly translates as “faggot” in English.

FIFA on June 20 issued a warning to Mexico after fans used the homophobic chant during a pre-2018 World Cup match that took place in Russia. The Mexican Football Association subsequently warned its fans to stop using the chant.

“As you know, FIFA is very serious about the chanting that we do when the goalkeeper takes a kick, and the possible sanctions are serious,” it said in a statement, according to NBC News. “Our efforts on the pitch will come to nothing if, because of this (behavior), we lose the match, the game is suspended or you are expelled from the stadium.”

“We lose, you lose, everyone loses,” added the Mexican Football Association.

FIFA since 2015 has also fined Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Greece, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay for “homophobic chants by supporters” during matches.

FIFA rules specifically ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, but the organization awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia in spite of the country’s LGBT rights record. A FIFA spokesperson told the Washington Blade the organization has a gay-inclusive “comprehensive strategy to combat discrimination” that includes a guide on how to promote diversity and fight discrimination.

“FIFA is committed to fighting all forms of discrimination in football, including homophobia,” said the spokesperson. “The sanctions related to homophobic chants applied around the FIFA World Cup qualifiers are proof of how seriously FIFA takes this issue.”

LGBT advocacy groups in Latin America have launched campaigns that are designed to combat homophobia in soccer.

The LGBT Federation of Argentina launched a campaign ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that featured retired soccer player Sergio Govcochea and Argentine sports reporter Juan Manuel Varela. The campaign, which incorporates FIFA’s Fair Play initiative, also featured clips of fans using homophobic and racist chants to taunt players from opposing teams during games.

“We believe in the value of Fair Play that FIFA launched years ago,” then-LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón in a statement that launched the campaign. “It has to leave the fields and reach the fans and also strongly fight against discrimination — not only against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people — in the stands.”

GLAAD, Google and YouTube also launched campaigns during the 2014 World Cup that promoted LGBT acceptance in soccer and other sports.

“Sport should give us pride and never should come with discrimination or exclusion; regardless of ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation or any other type (of factor,)” said gay Brazilian Congressman Jean de Wyllys in Google’s “Play with Pride” campaign.

Chile’s National Association of Professional Soccer last October signed an agreement with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, an LGBT advocacy group, in which it pledged to fight homophobia and other forms of discrimination in professional soccer.

The two groups earlier this year launched a campaign to combat homophobic, racist and xenophobic chants in the country’s soccer stadiums. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in a March 29 press release applauded fans for their “good and respectful behavior” during a game between Chile and Venezuela that took place the day before at Monumental Stadium in the Santiago suburb of Macul.

“We did not hear, nor were we aware of any xenophobic, homophobic or racist chants or shouts, even during the second half when the Chilean team was in a tense moment,” said the Movement for the Homosexual Integration and Liberation. “What happened yesterday was, without doubt, an advance for respect and pacifism that we hope will continue.”

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A Revolution for Women in Baseball

Last week, they announced that Rachel Balkovec will become the first woman to manage a team in minor league baseball.

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Rachel Balkovec was hired as a hitting coach in the Yankees’ system in 2019. She will now manage the Class A Tampa Tarpons.Credit. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Balkovec/Instagram.

The Yankees were late on introducing an African-American player to their roster, adding Hall of Famer Elston Howard to the team in 1955, eight years after Jackie Robinson starred for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Yankees seem determined not to repeat that bad history.  Last week, they announced that Rachel Balkovec will become the first woman to manage a team in minor league baseball when she takes the helm of the Tampa Tarpons this spring. 

It has been just over ten years since Justin Siegal threw batting practice to the Cleveland Guardians and five since she was the first woman to coach a MLB squad with the Oakland Athletics.  Two years ago, Kim Ng became the first female General Manager of any of the four major professional sports when the Marlins hired her to run their team.  In the two years since then, the dam has burst.  Women have been hired to important on-field positions with professional baseball at an impressive clip.  As baseball has lagged behind other professional sports in bringing women into the game, the current pace of hires indicates that baseball’s embrace of analytics and objective measures have finally penetrated the walls of one of the most enduring old boys clubs in the U.S. and given talented women opportunities they have long been denied.

Ten women will be coaching with major or minor league teams in 2022.  In 2021, Bianca Smith became the first African-American woman to coach in the minors when the Red Sox hired her. Alyssa Nakken became the first woman in uniform during a Major League Baseball game when she coached first base for the Giants in a July 2020 exhibition against the Oakland A’s.  Her jersey now belongs to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Cuban-American Veronica Alvarez is not only the coach of the U.S. Women’s National Baseball team, she also served as a spring training coach for the Oakland A’s.

The proliferation of women in baseball is not an accident.  More girls than ever are playing baseball.  Here, in the DC area, 160 girls participated with D.C. Girls Baseball in 2021.  Baseball for All, an organization that supports and promotes girls in baseball, held a tournament last summer that drew nearly 600 girls who play baseball.  There are more women than ever on collegiate baseball rosters.  Major League Baseball has also devoted significant resources to girls and women in baseball, running several development camps for girls in baseball.  Six of the women now coaching professional baseball participated in MLB’s Take the Field initiative, which is designed to help place women into baseball positions. To top it all off, the classic film about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, A League of Their Own, is getting a reboot on Amazon Prime this year.

The pace of hiring is exhilarating.  Unfortunately, every report of a woman being hired is followed by predictable hateful commentary on social media.  Many cannot imagine that a woman may be hired for a baseball position on merit and resort to making sexist and derogatory comments.  As women in baseball, the coaches are used to that vitriol and have developed thick skin and sophisticated defense mechanisms.  However, also reading are thousands of girls who are inspired by the achievements of these women and they are, sadly, learning that to achieve in baseball means enduring the sexist taunts, gross come-ons, and hurtful comments.

Baseball has a long way to go.  Other leagues have women officiating games, so it should be reasonable to expect that baseball will have women umpires in the near future.  The possibility of women playing professional baseball is tantalizingly close as 17 year old Genevieve Beacom made history last week as the first women to play Australian professional baseball, when she threw a scoreless inning against the Adelaide Giants.

We are watching a revolution in baseball unfold before our eyes. 

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Gus Kenworthy skis for Great Britain at 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

The freestyle skiing Olympic medalist continues to advocate for sport to become a more accepting place for openly gay athletes

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Gus Kenworthy (Screenshot courtesy Beijing Olympic Winter Games/IOC)

Out British-American freestyle skier, actor, and YouTuber Gus Kenworthy, will be competing in his third Olympic Winter Games, but his first for Team GB next month for the 2022 Beijing Games. In 2014 and 2018 Kenworthy represented the USA where during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia he became an Olympic Silver Medalist.

In an interview recorded in December, Kenworthy stressed his personal mantra of ‘Let people be themselves.’ The freestyle skiing Olympic medalist continues to advocate for sport to become a more accepting place for openly gay athletes.

Having recently won bronze in slopestyle for Team USA at PyeongChang 2018, Kenworthy is aiming for another podium place at his “third and final Games”, where he’s focusing on halfpipe at Beijing 2022, representing Great Britain. Kenworthy said with quiet determination that this year’s Winter Games will be his last as an Olympic competitor.

Kenworthy joins a “record number” of openly LGBTQ+ athletes heading to the Beijing games, Outsports reported. The 2018 Winter Olympics featured 15 out queer athletes, and Outsports noted that the Beijing games will see more openly LGBTQ+ athletes than previously Winter Games.

PinkNewsUK notes that there was a question as to whether Kenworthy would be able to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics, which kick off in February.

Just weeks ago, Kenworthy shared in an Instagram post that he recently got a “bad concussion” while at a training camp in Switzerland.

He explained that he’s had a “few serious” traumatic brain injuries in the past so the “seriousness of each added concussion has been stressed to me”.

 

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Out professional soccer player calls out ‘homophobic abuse’ from crowd

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd

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Photo courtesy of Josh Cavallo Instagram

Professional soccer player Josh Cavallo, who became the only openly gay top-flight male professional footballer last year, told his Instagram followers over the weekend that he experienced “homophobic abuse” during his last game. 

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd at AAMI Park during his team’s Saturday game against the Melbourne Victory.

“As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”

Cavallo added that he was also targeted after the game online. 

“To @instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said. “I knew truely being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear Cavallo’s reports of “homophobic bullying,” according to the Guardian

“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch,” APL CEO Danny Townsend said. “There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour.”

The APL is working with both teams to investigate the incident, adding that sanctions will be issued to anyone involved. 

In a statement, Adelaide United Chief Executive Officer Nathan Kosmina said that the team was “appalled” at the “verbal abuse” that Cavallo received. 

“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting,” he said. “Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our Club.”

The Melbourne Victory added that it “sees football as a platform to unite fans no matter what background. Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches.”

At the end of his Instagram message, Cavallo thanked those sending him positive messages, love and support. 

“Love will always win,” he said. 

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