Ref ends U.S., Mexico early amid anti-gay chants

The United States men’s national team’s 3-0 win over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League semifinal on Thursday was halted before the completion of second-half stoppage time by the referee amid anti-gay chanting.

Referee Ivan Barton, who had already handed out four red cards in the game, paused the game in the 89th minute because of anti-gay chanting heard from the crowd at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Play resumed, and with four minutes left to go in injury time, Barton blew the final whistle after a goal kick by U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner was once again greeted by the anti-gay chant.

Concacaf told ESPN after the match that the game was not abandoned because of federation protocols regarding the chant, but at the “referee’s discretion.”

The governing body said in a statement later on Friday: “Concacaf strongly condemns the discriminatory chanting by some fans during the CNL Semifinal match between Mexico and the United States.

“Chants heard during the game led to the activation of the anti-discrimination protocol by the match officials. Additionally, security staff ejected several fans for engaging in unacceptable behavior in the stadium,” the organisation said.

“These incidents were extremely disappointing and tarnished what should have been a positive occasion to showcase high-quality football in our region.

“The Confederation is in the process of urgently establishing further details and reports from security and match officials and will make a further statement in short order.”

The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) has struggled in recent years with curtailing the anti-gay chant that is typically yelled during opposing goal kicks.

FIFA has issued fines to the FMF because of the action of fans, which included a $108,000 sanction in January for the chant at the 2022 World Cup.

The FMF has made attempts to eradicate the discriminatory yells through avenues such as public service announcements, social media posts and pregame announcements from players.

Concacaf announced earlier Thursday that it had relaunched a “What’s Wrong is Wrong” anti-discrimination campaign that aims to “raise awareness about the importance of inclusivity and equality.” As part of the campaign, Concacaf said there would be increased security and a “more proactive approach to ejecting fans who engage in discriminatory chants.”

Whether U.S Soccer acts in a more rigid manner remains up in the air. In April, the federation enacted a policy that could punish discriminatory chants during games. If derogatory chants are heard, a team could be banned from taking part in an international game in the U.S. for two years. A second violation would result in a five-year sanction, and a third would be a permanent ban.

A source told ESPN earlier this year that as long as Mexico makes a good-faith attempt to eradicate the chants, there wouldn’t be any sanctions. There’s also uncertainty about what threshold would need to be crossed for the ban to potentially go into effect.

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