Football’s global governing body is under pressure by more than two dozen LGBTI and human rights organizations to take ‘concrete action’ on homophobia and anti-gay chants yelled in the stands during this year’s World Cup.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was sent a letter Friday (11 July) signed by such groups as GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Council, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) and Women’s Sports Foundation, among others.
‘At a time when more of the world than ever loves the sport of soccer, its biggest tournament, the World Cup, is starting to be known as an anti-gay event,’ said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. ‘And this narrative will only grow in advance of the next games in Russia and Qatar, two countries with disastrous records when it comes to LGBT people.’
FIFA came under fire last month when it determined that fans of Mexico’s World Cup team were free to chant the word ‘puto’ during games despite it meaning ‘faggot’ in some parts of the Spanish-speaking world.
FIFA said they did not consider it to be an anti-gay slur if used in a specific context during the game despite Mexico’s own National Council to Prevent Discrimination determining that the word is a slur.
‘Sadly, the negative effect of your decision quickly manifested,’ the letter to FIFA states. ‘During the 23 June telecast of the World Cup, fans of team Mexico chanted ‘puto’ more times than ever, along with other anti-gay slurs like "culero." FIFA seems only to have popularized words that, in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world, mean "faggot."’
FIFA President Sepp Blatter had vowed to use the World Cup as a platform to fight racism and discrimination.
Said GLAAD’s Ellis: ‘Networks, fans and sponsors do not want to be associated with stadiums chanting anti-gay slurs nor do they want a situation like the Sochi Olympics, which was overshadowed by the discussion of Russia’s anti-LGBT environment. GLAAD will be reaching out to FIFA and corporate partners worldwide to bring change.’
The next World Cup is to be held in Sochi which has come under heavy criticism since the Olympics and after Russia passed an anti-gay propaganda law that makes it a crime to be publicly supportive of homosexuality.
In addition, the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to be held in Qatar where being gay is illegal and LGBT people can be imprisoned.
When FIFA President Sepp Blatter was asked about Qatar’s anti-LGBT laws, his response was to laugh and state that LGBT fans who plan to attend should ‘refrain from sexual activity.’
He later apologized for his comments.