A guest post from Kerith Gabriel of the Daily News.
As a journalist, I chase rumors just like everyone else, but the true skill I am starting to master is sniffing out the ones that smell like fish.
On Thursday, one went out courtesy of a few members of the U.S. national team supporters group The American Outlaws, claiming that FIFA had issued a fine to the U.S. Soccer Federation because of inappropriate chants from American fans.
Drawing specific attention was the ever-popular "You suck, asshole" refrain fired off during goal kicks. Among the matches where it's been heard loud and clear was last month's U.S.-Mexico encounter here in Philadelphia, with Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa on the receiving end.
This drew the attention of one of the more prominent soccer blogs in the region, The Brotherly Game. The blog's managing editor, Scott Kessler, tweeted the following yesterday afternoon:
A source close to the situation has told tBG that FIFA has fined the USSF for the AO's YSA chants in Philly during the USMNT - Mexico game.
As of the time that this post went up, The Brotherly Game has yet to post any further information on its website. There have been a few more posts on the blog's Twitter feed, but there has been no further update about the nature of the fine or where the information first came from.
Given the reputation of Philadelphia sports fans, Kessler's statement caused quite an outcry on Twitter and elsewhere. Jonathan and I both asked the U.S. Soccer Federation for a response, and were told pretty bluntly that the tweet was not accurate.
That didn’t prove to be enough for some, so I went a step further. Neil Buethe, head of U.S. Soccer’s communication department, spoke on behalf of the Federation, dissolved that rumor today for the Daily News and this blog.
"That is not the case," Buethe said emphatically. "Although we very well at any time for a number of reasons could be sanctioned by CONCACAF or by FIFA, we haven’t been contacted by either in regards to any behavior from the match in Philadelphia."
Buethe said the rumor may have started in response to U.S. Soccer providing its own sanction against the Outlaws by prohibiting individual banners and tifos at tonight's match against Costa Rica in Carson, Calif.
Buethe said while in a meeting with the Outlaws it was determined that they can bring one large banner, their flags and other accessories, individual banners won’t be allowed.
"We looked at the footage from the match and can pick out 5-6 good instances where inappropriate chants were made," he said. "That’s one too many."
Earlier this year, U.S. Soccer launched its RESPECT campaign for fans, and has been in close talks with the leaders of its respective supporters groups in an effort to limit unruly fan behavior.
But knowing that there are always knuckleheads that will chant YSA or run onto the pitch in the middle of the game (that did happen during U.S.-Mexico), this ban Tuesday is more a show of action that behavior like this won’t be tolerated, Buethe said.
If you want my feeling on this, this rumor - that was picked up and run with like Adrian Peterson in open gridiron - reeks of a pissed off supporters group that feels it's being singled out.
I write this under the pretense that as a lifelong Philadelphian, it’s getting a little old hearing that Philly is the epicenter for poor fan behavior. I mean, it’s been 40-plus years and I still hear from journos outside our realm about Eagles fans throwing snowballs at Santa.
Plus, you're telling me that with all the racist chanting in many European countries, the urine hurling and beer throwing fans in Mexico, and the rioting that still goes on in many parts of South America, FIFA is dropping elbows on the USSF for YSA chants during the biggest rivalry game in CONCACAF?
Lastly, I did reach out to Justin Brunken, one of the main founders of the American Outlaws, and haven’t been able to reach him. Once I do, expect a follow-up.
If you have a question, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sprtswtr.