Open Letter to FIFA

Joseph S. Blatter, President Fédération Internationale de Football Association FIFA-Strasse 20, P.O. Box 8044 Zurich, Switzerland July 11, 2014 Dear President Blatter, The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and its allies were extremely disappointed and surprised by FIFA's recent decision to affirm use of the anti-gay slur 'puto.' Conapred, Mexico's anti-discrimination agency, has come out strongly stating that the word is offensive and hurtful, so it is perplexing that FIFA has determined otherwise. Sadly, the negative effect of your decision quickly manifested. During the 23 June telecast of the World Cup, fans of team Mexico chanted 'puto' more times than ever, along with other anti-gay slurs like 'culero.' FIFA seems only to have popularized words that, in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world, mean "faggot." In countries where it is not specifically an anti-gay epithet, it is a very offensive pejorative, which expresses misogynistic attitudes. FIFA's own statutes specify that it would expel fans for discriminatory behavior, yet you are taking no action whatsoever. Economic sanctions against the teams surely are not the only means by which to take a stand. By not addressing the use of anti-gay slurs in advance of the World Cup and by not speaking out against their use now, FIFA is endangering the wellbeing of LGBT sports fans both in its venues, as well as those watching at home. FIFA has also put television networks in an awkward position, forcing them to undermine their own corporate values by airing words that offend countless audience members. Similarly, some World Cup sponsors and advertisers have been forced to compromise their own values, which demand respect for LGBT people and customers. As groups such as the undersigned have worked to address homophobic behavior at sports games, we have seen organizations step forward and take a stand. Univision read a strong statement on air before and during the half time of the recent Mexico v. Netherlands match that demonstrated the network's commitment to making broadcasts safe for all fans. ESPN also addressed this issue on air. Both broadcasters have stated, however, that they cannot control the feeds that FIFA provides -- and so the ball is back in your court. FIFA now has the opportunity to do more by creating messages that make your position clear and uphold your own statutes, which prohibit discrimination. Previously, FIFA was asked to take part in a public education campaign to help eradicate anti-gay slurs from your games. That call was ignored, however. If FIFA continues to turn its head the other way and tacitly condone anti-gay discrimination, we will be left with no choice but to express our very grave concern to your sponsors, several of which have a long history of speaking out against anti-LGBT bias. FIFA must take decisive action to eliminate anti-LGBT slurs from its venues and stop disregarding the concrete harm these slurs inflict on countless fans. Yours truly, Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO, GLAAD Christina Kahrl, GLAAD National Board of Directors Chad Griffin, President, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Eliza Byard, Executive Director, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Rea Carey, Executive Director, The Task Force Alex Nogales, President and CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) Abbe Land, Executive Director and CEO, The Trevor Project Gabriel Blau, Executive Director, Family Equality Council Michael Silverman, Executive Director, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy, Women's Sports Foundation Anna Aagenes, Executive Director, GO! Athletes Alison Doerfler, Executive Director, Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Inc. Nevin Caple, Co-founder and Executive Director, Br{ache the Silence Les Johnson, Vice President, Federation of Gay Games Jeff Sheng, Cyd Zeigler, Co-Founder, Outsports Ari Gutierrez Arambula, Chairperson, Latino Equality Alliance Luis Ignacio Guzman, Vice President, CODISE A.C. (Mexico) Esteban Paulón, President, Federación Argentina de Lesbianas Gays Bisexuales y Trans (Argentina) Jorge-Mario Cabrera, Director of Communications, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles Antonio Medina Trejo and Jorge Cerpa Velázquez, AM Comunicación e Información (Mexico) Rev. Nancy Wilson, Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA Alex Patchin McNeill, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry Rev. Harry Knox, President and CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Yolanda Elliott, President, Seventh Day Adventist Kinship International Rabbi Debra Kolodny, Executive Director, Nehirim Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director, Campus Pride Yelena Goltsman, Co-President, RUSA LGBT Robyn Lieberman, Senior Director of Government Advocacy, Human Rights First