No, it’s not the most frequent shout from the feverish NYCFC faithful at Yankee Stadium— that distinction justly belongs to the iconic #ComeOnNewYork, a punchy panacea with the power to make blind refs see, and to melt even the coldest heart every time Tommy Mac does nary a thing.
But in the pecking order of popular refrains, “PUTO” might be a close second or third.
And I’m here to say fuck that.
Whenever an opposing keeper resumes play with a big boot from the box, the p-word is an utter inevitability in the Bronx. And the closer you are to the supporters section — where I’ve had season tickets since Year One, Day One — it only gets louder.
Depending on who you ask, puto is either a shameful riff of homophobia, an unfortunate-but-aw-shucks fact of soccer support in certain regions of the world, or, particularly at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, an essential element of the culture, full-stop.
But let’s be clear about three things:
- The word is homophobic— whether or not its speaker has bad intentions.
- Its continued use is shameful— whether or not the responsible party means to hurt a fly.
- Saturday is Pride Day at Yankee Stadium.
When the Blues take the field to meet the Seattle Sounders, Hudson River Blue is bracing for egregiously poor Pride Day optics at best. At worst, we’re prepared to witness a self-replenishing black mark on NYCFC fan culture that shows no signs of stopping. All in front of a national audience on ESPN.
Whether through a groupthinky lack of awareness — it’s quite likely many guilty chanters in the South Bronx don’t understand what they’re really saying — or willful abusive behavior awash in mind-numbing justifications, the Puto Party sees no reason why it should change. (And I know this heart-bleedy article is the last thing in the world ever to convince them.)
Directly, puto means “male prostitute.” Connotatively? “Faggot.” You will typically hear some folks say that it doesn’t actually mean this in particular regions of Latin America that they’re infinitely more familiar with than you or I. You will hear other folks rattle off a list of talking points, awash in a strangely disciplined kind of denial, that the folks who shout it at soccer games don’t mean to be homophobic at all, and therefore they ought to be able to keep up the tradition.
This is bullshit. It’s like you and a hundred of your friends aggressively screaming “FAG!” at an unsuspecting stranger and then explaining that you were actually calling them a cigarette, because your gran is from East London and etc. etc. etc. and they haven’t ever actually been there and that’s why they’re not allowed to be offended.
And for good measure, watch this video featuring the stars of the Azteca pleading with their own fans to stop:
Another party that has taken offense with this damnable tradition? FIFA. Yes, even that corrupt bordello of sticky-fingered sociopathic thieves knows that puto is wrong: this year, the Mexico’s football federation was fined $10,000 by the global governing body in response to its fans’ insistence on having a Puto Party during World Cup Qualifying (to be fair, Brazil and Argentina were fined far more for similar violations). It was merely their most recent fine; they’ve got a backlog.
A popular, sober explanation in Mexico and elsewhere is that a puto is simply cowardly, and that any connotation of sexuality is the interpreter’s fault. But no matter where you are, that doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t.
An absence of maliciousness doesn’t automatically absolve you if someone ends up feeling hurt. Marginalized. Intimidated.
So, on this special NYCFC Saturday, we have a proposal for the faithful:
When Stefan Frei steps up to strike the ball for the Sounders, what if thousands of voices chose to say no to puto? What if we, as one family, rose up and screamed a different p-word instead?
How about pride?