Brazilian club criticizes its own fans for anti-gay chant

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian soccer club Atletico Mineiro criticized its own fans for an anti-gay chant, a rare step in a country where homophobia has been tolerated at stadia for decades.

Hundreds of Atletico Mineiro fans were filmed targeting supporters of rival club Cruzeiro during a goalless draw in Belo Horizonte in a Brazilian championship match on Sunday.

The chant said Cruzeiro fans needed to be careful because far-right Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro will kill gay people if elected in October.

Atletico Mineiro said it “deeply regrets the homophobic statements by some fans,” adding its fan base “is made of people of all social classes, race and gender, so no discrimination is acceptable.”

“Our team is for everyone, and every day is a day to fight,” the club added.

Bolsonaro leads the polls with a polarizing campaign, mixing public security concerns, anti-left rhetoric, and politically incorrect statements about blacks, women, and homosexuals.

The candidate never said gays will be killed if he is elected and insists his views are not bound by prejudice. Bolsonaro is currently in the hospital after being stabbed on Sept. 6.

On Monday, another Brazilian club issued a statement to address views of a Bolsonaro supporter.

Sao Paulo-based Palmeiras said it remained a neutral institution after midfielder Felipe Melo dedicated a goal to the far-right candidate in a 1-1 draw against Bahia.

A former Juventus, Fiorentina, and Inter Milan player, Melo said his goal “is for our President Bolsonaro” in an interview after the match.

The club said: “Palmeiras respects any political decisions of its athletes, employees and partners, and it ratifies its neutrality in matters of politics, political parties, beliefs, religions and any other ways of personal action.”

One of the staunchest supporters of the far-right candidate, Melo played for Brazil in the 2010 World Cup.