Atlanta United condemns anti-gay chant and vows to kick out fans who use it

After a chant that is considered homophobic was used by fans at Atlanta United’s debut match, the club has condemned such language and vowed to take action.

Atlanta United drew 55,000 fans for their first-ever MLS match on Sunday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in a successful, electrifying club launch. But some pockets of fans were heard at the stadium and on broadcasts chanting the word “p*to” on goal kicks, which is considered a Spanish anti-gay slur, marring an otherwise strong Atlanta United debut.

“Atlanta United does not support or condone the use of offensive language. We strive to foster a positive, enthusiastic and inclusive environment for all fans, and inappropriate chants have no place at our matches,” the club said in a statement to FOX Sports.

“Fans found to be participating in this behavior will be subject to removal from the building.”

This isn’t the first time the chant has been heard at an MLS match, but clubs including the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes have mostly been able to eradicate it by vowing to ban fans who use it.

The chant itself has been debated since the word has somewhat different connotations in different parts of the Spanish-speaking world. But it is widely considered anti-gay and FIFA has been unequivocal about its use, fining the Mexican federation six times in a 13-month period for the use of the chant, including at a World Cup qualifier vs. the U.S. in November.

The Mexican federation has appealed the fines, saying the chant isn’t homophobic, but thus far they’ve been unsuccessful. FIFA has fined other federations, including Argentina, Brazil, Honduras and others for what they allege are anti-gay chants at international fixtures, too.

Atlanta United is playing in Bobby Dodd Stadium until their new venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opens later this year. To date, they have more than 30,000 season ticket-holders for their inaugural season.