While many Team USA fans will be pleased with their 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League victory over Canada on Father’s Day, the biggest story of the Nations League revolves around fan behavior in the semi-final rather than any performance on the pitch. During a month meant to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and to emphasize inclusion and belonging, Team USA’s match against Team Mexico was stopped under the league anti-discrimination protocol after anti-gay slurs were chanted by Team Mexico fans at American keeper Matt Turner. Despite a warning to the fans prior to the resumption of play, the slurs continued until the match was ultimately abandoned early in extra time under league anti-discrimination protocol. These slurs are not a new phenomenon from Team Mexico fans and have been chanted for years while soccer officials have struggled with creating new ways to manage fan behavior.
For many, enough is enough, and according to Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com, US Soccer indicated that they would enact policy 521-2, which would prevent a team from competing in the United States if their fans chant discriminatory slurs. Despite announcing a hard-line stance prior to the match US Soccer has made no indication that any such ban may be forthcoming.
The tension arises from the governing organizations' few options of enforcement that won’t interfere with the outcome of the underlying game. The ending of the game with 8 minutes remaining in stoppage time is the closest CONCACAF has come to any such impact. Nonetheless, with 8 minutes remaining and a three-goal deficit, few fans were left wondering what might have been if the remaining time had been played out.
If leagues are unwilling to ban teams from competitions due to the behavior of the fans, the best solution may ultimately be the least attractive. Tickets to sporting events are revocable licenses and subsequently may be revoked when the spectator behaves in a manner that is unacceptable within the venue. CONCACAF should provide extra funding to venues to secure the hiring of additional security staff tasked specifically with the ejection of fans who chant slurs at games immediately. Should the slurs get out of control, a stoppage would be called that will allow staff sufficient time to eject the infringing fans serving as a message to other fans who may consider joining in. Finally, CONCACAF should further insist that host venues pledge a substantial bond prior to hosting an event that is forfeited if the venue is unable to curb the slurs from fans. If a match has to be terminated for failure to stop the slurs, the bond will be automatically forfeited by the host venue to fund additional security staff at future events.
Empty words and policies have gone on too long without sufficient action or enforcement. If CONCACAF wants to take a serious step in stopping Team Mexico fans’ use of slurs, they need to put their money where their mouth is and implement a new policy.
Chase Youngman is a graduate of Penn State Law where he was the president of the Penn State Law Sports Entertainment Law Society. You can also find him on Twitter as @c3youngman.