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U.S. Soccer bans anti-gay chants at sanctioned matches

The federation’s Board of Directors passed a resolution to adopt a ban on discriminatory chants at all sanctioned soccer matches

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Courtesy of U.S. Soccer

With just 20 days until the U.S. men’s national team take on Mexico in their World Cup qualifying match, U.S. Soccer is taking a stand against a popular chant that perpetuates homophobia and gay bashing. 

The federation’s board of directors voted Friday on a resolution that will adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-gay chants at all matches hosted or sanctioned in the U.S., including international matches played here. 

The board also agreed to work on a way to implement FIFA’s own three-step protocol at all matches “promoted or controlled by U.S. Soccer.” 

The ban comes just 20 days before the USMNT takes the field before a packed house at the fabled Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, where fans have a long history of chanting the word “puto.” The slur has many meanings but when it’s shouted at opposing players, it’s roughly translated to mean “male prostitute” in colloquial Spanish. 

This happens so frequently at Esadio Azteca, that FIFA has issued multiple fines against Mexico’s Football Federation. In response, the MFF issued a ban of its own in January. Violators caught chanting that or any other homophobic slur risk being banned from matches for five years, as the Los Angeles Blade reported.

But this problem is hardly limited to Mexico. 

In June, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, (CONCACAF) league’s final match in the Mile-High City was halted after fans disrupted the game play by shouting the vulgar chant at players on the field.

Then in November, the Los Angeles Football Club’s final home match of the 2021 season was marred by fans chanting at least three times. The LAFC announced recently it would work to stop the practice by teaming up with the LGBTQ fan group Pride Republic, as well as The 3252, which is the club’s largest official fan group, in hopes of curbing the use of the slur at Banc of California Stadium.

“While to many, it may seem like crowd chants at soccer matches may just be sophomoric attempts to distract the players on an opposing team, as a queer, Latino soccer fan, these discriminatory chants cut much deeper,” said Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Director of Communications, in a statement posted online. 

“For LGBTQ Latinos, these chants – almost always using a highly-derogatory Spanish slur – create an atmosphere of hostility, recalling long-lasting memories of fear and rejection,” Vasquez added. “We applaud U.S. Soccer for passing a ban on these homophobic chants to ensure that all of their matches are inclusive of their entire fan base. U.S. Soccer today made an unequivocal statement that there is no room for hate and homophobia in football and now it must take action to make this resolution an enforceable policy at its next meeting.”

U.S. Soccer didn’t come to this decision all on its own. Reports by the Blade, Outsports and ESPN kept pressure on the board of directors. NCLR worked with attorney Paul C. Burke of Equality Utah to put even more public pressure on U.S. Soccer, with a social media toolkit that urged the organization to pass the ban on the discriminatory chants with the hashtag campaign #BanTheChant.

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Blinken criticizes FIFA threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA threatens sanctions

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Reliving a magical softball world series in D.C.

Jackson, Mace worked for years and through a pandemic to bring event to the city

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The Amateur Sports Alliance of North America brought its Softball World Series to D.C. in August. (Photo courtesy ASANA)

After almost two years of disruptions, the LGBTQ sports community in the District of Columbia is thriving once again.

Tournaments that were canceled have been rescheduled, leagues are back in action, and sports permitting within the District is working its way back to normal.

The Washington Blade checked in with two Chesapeake and Potomac Softball (CAPS) players who worked for several years to bring the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA) Softball World Series to D.C.

The ASANA Softball World Series 2022 was held in D.C. in August and brought in more than 1,500 athletes, coaches and fans who celebrated sports and community over seven days.

Cis women, trans women, trans men and nonbinary athletes were eligible to play in the series, and cis men were welcome to coach or manage teams.

Rhonda Jackson and Tony Mace were co-hosts of the Host City Committee who brought the series to our nation’s capital.

Blade: Tell me about the journey to bring the ASANA World Series to D.C.

Tony Mace: We submitted our bid in 2019 to host the 2021 World Series, which was then rescheduled due to the pandemic. The 2020 Series was cancelled and eventually we received the 2022 award to host.

Blade: Was there a theme behind your bid?

Rhonda Jackson: Yes, our goal was to elevate the player experience both on and off the field. Every player was treated as if they were the best softball player on the planet. We wanted the players and the city to be the center of attention. We attended a Mystics game and a Nationals game, which were both great to experience as a community. 

Mace: We were excited for the opportunity to show off D.C. and we are really proud of what we are doing here as an LGBTQ softball community. We wanted to share it.

Blade: Let’s talk softball. How was the Series?

Mace: ASANA has 28 member cities, and we had a total of 47 teams from 21 cities competing in the B through E Divisions. The games were held at Watkins Regional Park and Fairland Regional Park.

Jackson: Everyone was treated as an elite athlete, and it didn’t feel like a local or regional tournament. The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation did an awesome job of getting the fields in shape for the Series. They were a big part of the player experience. When we arrived on the first day it was a spiritual moment. Everything was perfect and there were a lot of smiling faces. I hope we created memories that last a lifetime.

Blade: How many local teams competed?

Jackson: D.C. fielded five teams – DC Sharks won their division, DC Swag finished third in their division and Spartas finished fourth in their division.

Blade: And I understand congratulations are in order for you, RJ?

Jackson: During the Series, I was inducted into the ASANA Hall of Fame. My competitive teams, my local teams and the CAPS Board were all there. I could feel the love.

Mace: The Hall of Fame dinner was magical. Actually, every day of that week was incredible. It is truly amazing to have players from across the country come and play at your home ballpark. I made a ton of new friends and Friday night under the lights was a really special moment.

Jackson: The whole week was about special moments, connecting with new and old friends, giving folks an opportunity to thrive, and creating a safe, inclusive space to compete.

Blade: And congrats to you, too, Tony for being inducted into the CAPS Hall of Fame this year.Right after the ASANA World Series ended, you headed to Dallas to compete in NAGAAA Softball World Series with other CAPS travel teams. How was the tournament?

Mace: We had two teams from D.C. make it to the Division championships – DC Big Blue won the Masters D Division and DC Scruff finished second in the D Division. It is always great when your sister teams play well and seeing everyone pull together from the D.C. community to celebrate the DC Big Blue victory was heartwarming.

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