Puto and Porkchop
Some fans acknowledged that the word is offensive to some and that they’d work to change their language. Many others took a more defensive stance on the issue. Both these reactions are familiar to me as I’ve heard it all before as I let supporters groups know that in many Spanish-speaking cultures it’s the worst gay slur possible.
The defensive posturing usually comes in two forms. The first is “That’s not an offensive word.”
Posts on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary dispute this. But before you attack me for citing sites dominated by user-generated content, here are some other examples. The gay republican group GOPRoud asked comedian George Lopez to apologize for using the word in his routine mocking Mitt Romney. The Spanish-language talk show “Jose Luis Sin Censura” was taken off the air in part because audiences were encouraged to chant the word at guests who appeared to be gay. If you want to take this more directly into the sports world, out boxer Orlando Cruz has had crowds chant the word at him during fights.
To many, “puto” is clearly an offensive word targeting gay men.
The second defense that comes up is “That word means a few things. We didn’t mean it the offensive way, so it’s okay that we use it.” Okay, let me tell you about PorkChop.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are a Minor League affiliate of baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies. Moving from Ottawa to the Allentown area in 2008, the name is derived from “pig iron,” which is a product of the region’s once-booming steel industry. As many new sports franchises do, they held a “name the mascot” contest the year before play began. They received thousands of entries and the team selected a name submitted by dozens of fans: PorkChop. PorkChop seemed like a cute, clever, and innocuous choice for a name for a mascot that’s a grey-colored porker. It might have been cute; it might have been clever. But some Lehigh Valley residents found it anything but innocuous. When the Valley’s Puerto Rican community grew rapidly over the decades in the second half of the twentieth century, porkchop was a derogatory slur used against them as they quickly became a greater part of the area’s blue-collar workforce in the steel industry and other area companies like Mack Trucks.
Just days after the original announcement, PorkChop became Ferrous. The team heard fans’ complaints and while they meant no offense by the use of the word, they listened and they learned and they did what they felt should be done to make sure all fans felt comfortable with the area’s new franchise. General manager Kurt Landes summed up the team’s position well speaking to CBS News: “We were really unaware of any negative connotations with the word ‘pork chop.’ If it offended a few, it’s a few too many.”
Our sport would be so much better if we followed the IronPigs’ example when it comes to supporters groups who toss around the word puto. We’d be so much better off if the reaction from all when the issue was raised was:
We were really unaware of any negative connotations with the word ‘puto.’ If it offended a few, it’s a few too many.