GOOD

Stopping Soccer’s Homophobia Problem Starts In The Stands

Antigay chants by Atlanta United fans highlight soccer’s troubling history of intolerance

Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

In front of 55,000 fans on Sunday, Atlanta United FC played its first-ever Major League Soccer match. The crowd, double the size of an average MLS game, cheered on their team with flags waving, with scarves hoisted above their heads and chants emanating in unison. The expansion team’s fans had quickly embraced the raucous atmosphere and customs of a great soccer crowd.


However, they embraced one tradition too many. When the opposing team’s keeper took his goal kicks, some Atlanta fans chanted a homophobic slur that’s commonplace in the Mexican league and has been heard at other MLS stadiums in the past. It was an ugly, but not unique, start to the franchise. From hooligans to racists to homophobes, soccer has been battling bad fan behavior around the globe for decades.

What’s different here is that Atlanta has a chance to start fresh. As a new team, they can stop these acts of homophobia before they take root in their soccer culture. But it isn’t just on team officials; the club’s front office quickly condemned the chants, but for the club to keep the chants at bay, Atlanta United fans must commit to policing themselves.

The slur the Atlanta crowd used is well known among soccer fans. During the 2014 World Cup, the Mexican national team fans drew heavy criticism for continually yelling “puto” in unison at the tournament. Roughly translated, it means male prostitute, but is akin to calling someone a faggot. The team’s coach Miguel Herrera defended the fans’ use of the term at the time, arguing that it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Despite the backlash, the sport’s governing body, FIFA, let the Mexican federation off the hook for those matches, issuing no fines.

That leniency hasn’t continued. During qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Mexico has been fined four times by FIFA for the chanting of the slur at matches, costing the federation nearly $85,000. Eight other national teams have been fined for their fans’ homophobic chants as well. The policy hasn’t stopped fans: Most of the fined teams have had multiple incidents.

This is not the first time soccer has tried to figure out what to do with offensive supporters. Teams, leagues, and international governing bodies have long struggled with how to curb racist chants from fans directed at black players. From chants of “monkey” to fans throwing bananas, crowds have even been crude toward their own team members. Ahead of the 2006 World Cup, ESPN aired a lengthy segment on the epidemic of racism from European soccer fans, showing how some players were trying to fight back and enact change.

You’d like to think the problem has improved. It hasn’t. Despite fines and the threat of penalizing a team by forcing them to play in an empty stadium, these measures haven’t deterred the bigots, as evidenced by superstar Italian player Mario Balotelli still being subjected to racial abuse on the field earlier this year. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated—one of America’s top soccer writers—called for harsher penalties for teams with racist fans, including forcing teams to forfeit matches.

MLS has not had problems so severe that has had to threaten its teams in that way. And, with this specific incident on Sunday, Atlanta United FC officials quickly issued a statement that condemned the chants.

“We strive to foster a positive, enthusiastic, and inclusive environment for all fans, and inappropriate chants have no place at our matches,” the team said in a statement provided to ESPN FC. “Atlanta United does not support or condone the use of offensive language. Fans found to be participating in this behavior will be subject to removal from the building.”

Yet, soccer’s history with fans has shown that team actions alone won’t solve the problem. In a sea of 55,000 people, trying to police what fans chant can be like a game of Whack-A-Mole for teams. To eradicate homophobia in the stands, the fans themselves must make a stand against it.

What has been great about the recent rise of MLS teams in Seattle and Portland is the strong community of fans growing up around the team. Not only can those communities plan tailgates and pregame marches, they can also create agreed-upon norms of behavior to make certain acts unacceptable in the group. This week, that self-policing has begun, with Atlanta supporters groups such as Terminus Legion, backing the team’s statements against the chants.

Since Sunday, the team and the fans have said all the right things. Now they must actually show they’​re willing to act on game day and not allow homophobia take a foothold in their fan culture—then other teams need to follow.

Sports
via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

Keep Reading Show less

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet