A soccer player got a red card and was sent off the pitch earlier this week. Unlike most red cards, this particular one made global headlines as Simen Juklerod was tossed from the match between two clubs in Norway’s second-highest league for calling an opposing player “gay.”
Perhaps even more surprising than the card itself, which the referee justified after the game for violating the league’s rule against using “insulting or abusive language,” was the swift and stern reaction from the club itself. Soon after the game, the club took to Twitter denouncing their player’s act and stated that they would conduct an internal review of the incident.
In a post-game interview, Jukelrod—who plays in midfield for Baerun SK—disputed the red card though admitted to a linguistic misstep. “Of course it’s completely lame,” he said, according to the BBC. “But I still think that’s not a red card.”
Soccer is trying to crack down on homophobia. Fans have been thrown out and banned from games for chants and FIFA looked into such chanting during last year’s World Cup, though it found nothing wrong with the incidents that gay groups cited. The openly-gay LA Galaxy player, Robbie Rogers, has called for “zero tolerance” towards homophobia in soccer.
Last year, England’s Premier League began a campaign to rid the sport of such rhetoric but the results show the challenges ahead. As part of the campaign, an anonymous survey of over 200 players in the league found that almost 40% had heard homophobic comments from the stands—and a quarter had heard them in the training grounds and locker rooms.