By Kati Weis

DENVER (CBS4) – The CONCACAF Nations League Finals is strictly enforcing its anti-discrimination policy aimed to stop offensive language in the stands. Thursday night, referees paused the Costa Rica vs Mexico semi-final game for three minutes, and some fans were ejected from the stadium, after some fans yelled a homophobic chant at players.

(credit: CBS)

For decades, some soccer fans have been known to use a homophobic slur – a Spanish term for a male sex worker – to taunt the other team’s goalie. In some European countries, some fans have yelled racist remarks at Black players.

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FIFA, which regulates the World Cup, has implemented strict anti-hate protocols to put a stop to it, and CONCACAF, the league for national soccer teams in the Caribbean, North America, and Central America, is doing the same.

(credit: CBS)

“I think we commend CONCACAF,” said Denver Sports Commission Executive Director Michael Payne. “We support them for taking action on an important issue like that, and support them taking a stand against any kind of inappropriate behaviors that, that shouldn’t be taking place in big games.”

This Sunday, CONCACAF will host two final games – a game at 4:30 p.m. for third place, and a game at 7:30 p.m. for the CONCACAF championship title. The U.S. Men’s National Soccer team and the Mexico National Soccer team will go head-to-head in the latter.

June is Pride Month, a time the LGBTQ community celebrates their identities. For this weekend’s games, CONCACAF has launched the #WhatsWrongIsWrong campaign to get the word out the chants are hurtful and will not be tolerated on Sunday.

If fans use the slurs during the game, they will first be warned on the stadium screen. If fans continue to shout the slurs, the game could be postponed, and played later behind closed doors. The game could even be abandoned.

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For Denver, hosting the CONCACAF Nations League Final is a big deal – bringing in a much-needed economic boost following the pandemic shutdowns.

The game is the largest sporting event to take place at Empower Field at Mile High since the pandemic began, according to Payne, and is hosting a sold-out crowd of 34,000 people – 42% of the stadium’s capacity for social distancing precautions.

The event could help the city of Denver secure the role to host the World Cup in 2026.

“It’s just an important day for the city… anytime you can get a chance to showcase your stadium, passionate fans, showcase your airport, and your restaurants, and your downtown scenes, that’s always a plus for us,” Payne said. “I think if you ask any restaurant, or hotel downtown, or small business, I think they’ll tell you that they’ve seen a boost, hopefully from the game last night, and hopefully they’ll see it continue throughout the rest of this weekend.”

CONCACAF sent the following written statement to CBS4 regarding its anti-discrimination policy:

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“CONCACAF yesterday activated its antidiscrimination protocols during the Costa Rica vs Mexico match as part of the organization’s commitment to eradicating a discriminatory chant sometimes shouted by spectators during goal kicks. We ejected several fans from the stadium for shouting this offensive chant, and the referee carried out a significant in-game stoppage towards the end of the match. We will continue to take these and, should they be required, other actions to deliver a safe and welcoming environment at our competitions for all fans. We are proud of the thousands of fans who attended the game and supported their team in the right way. We will continue to take action to eradicate discriminatory behavior and language in the stands.”

Kati Weis