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Don’t Cross the Line: San Jose Earthquakes need to be diligent in stopping homophobic chants at Cali Clasico

Security and fans share responsibility in squelching offensive “Puto” chants before they begin

“Say no to hate speech”
Lyndsay Radnedge | Center Line Soccer

STANFORD, Calif. — As the San Jose Earthquakes annual showdown against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium nears, anticipation among the more than 50,000 that are expected to attend continues to grow.

Quakes fans are looking forward to sharing in the MLS debut of new head coach Chris Leitch, reveling in the attacking rivalry of Chris Wondolowski vs. Romain Alessandrini, and witnessing the fireworks show — on and off the field — that will surely make its mark on this edition of the California Clasico.

But they won’t, in any way, want to be subjected to the homophobic chants that marred the experience of last year’s match at Stanford. Just say no to “Puto!”

The Earthquakes organization was quick to respond to the pervasive chanting of the slur, announcing that its use by insensitive fans would not be tolerated and instituting aggressive policies at Avaya Stadium to prevent a recurrence. Policing the much larger crowd at Stanford will have its challenges, but the Quakes security team has been refining its efforts over the last year.

For the most part, it’s worked, and the atmosphere at Avaya Stadium has been better for it. Last Wednesday, during the Quakes U.S. Open Cup game against Seattle, a nascent chant started in the supporters’ terrace, but thankfully was stopped before it could gain momentum.

The chant is in no way “playful” or “good fun” — it is unquestionably offensive and has been identified by no less than FIFA as having no place in the beautiful game. MLS has a whole has adopted the mantra “Don’t Cross the Line” when it comes to hateful and harmful speech at its stadiums, and the fans have listened.

Will the Stanford Stadium security team be ready to act at Saturday’s game as quickly and effectively as the Earthquakes security team at Avaya Stadium? There is a plan is in place to make sure they do, but the task may not prove easy, and more diligence may be necessary.

As such, Wondolowski will address the crowd before the game to ask everyone to work together to ensure a safe atmosphere, and the Quakes have instituted a text line that allows fans to alert security if trouble does occur in their sections: (408) 909-4265.

The Cali Clasico at Stanford has been the marquee game on the Earthquakes calendar for five years, and it does attract many fans that don’t otherwise attend Quakes games on a regular basis. Some may bring the use of the homophobic chant with them, but that is not an excuse for letting it be heard.

Fans need to model good behavior whenever possible and encourage the same from those around them who may elect not to do so. Don’t say silent if you do hear the chant; do make it known that such speech will not be tolerated. Compassion can win out, but not without everyone working together.