Is this World Cup tweet racist?

After the Netherlands eliminated Mexico, 2-to-1, in today’s World Cup soccer match, KLM Dutch Airlines, which apparently doesn’t need any business from Mexico, issued this tweet.


The tweet was “racially insensitive,” according to Mashable and it has since been taken down. But not before stirring up Twitter.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s fans have been at the center of a discussion about soccer’s racism and homophobia this week. The team’s fans chant “punto” “puto” during matches, Latin Post reported last week.

“From a purely etymological point of view, ‘puto’ comes from ‘puta’, which most likely comes from the Latin ‘putida/putere’ (to stink) or from ‘putta’ (girl, but often street girl). This is no surprise; prostitution was a pretty dirty/smelly profession for many a century,” Melissa Mann, an etymologist, translator and interpreter for English, Portuguese and Spanish languages, said to Latin Post in an email exchange. “I found that scholars have found written references to the masculine form of the word, ‘puttus’ (boy), as early as the first century B.C., and that these writings had clearly ascribed ‘puttus’ the definition of a boy who prostitutes himself. I could not dig up exactly when the Latin form of the term entered the Spanish language, but my own hunch is that the term has been around as long as Spanish has.”

Mann, who lived in Mexico for five years, went on to state that she has little to say on Mexican machismo, which often goes hand-in-hand with its notorious homophobia. She also said that she has no clue as to how the term became so widespread.

“The term ‘puto’ in itself is a derogatory term, no doubt. It has several meanings, used both towards men and women, in which case the meaning translates to someone who sleeps around. There is no way around the fact that it is a terrible word,” Bilingual ESPN anchor Alfredo Lomeli said to Latin Post, his opinions not being a reflection of ESPN’s. “Having said that, it is very difficult to explain to someone who is not Mexican, or close to the Mexican heritage, that this word is used very often during sporting events, and the intent is most definitely not as an anti-gay slur but as a distraction for the opposing team. In that regard, I do believe the word has been taken out of context, and I also believe the majority of the Mexican fans would agree. I do feel like the decades-long race issue in the world of futbol has created a platform for anti-gay issues, and the overall attention to these problems is a good thing. The dialogue that is created from these issues can only takes us to a higher level of understanding and sympathy towards other cultures and lifestyles.”

Sometimes slang for “fag” or “man whore” or “coward,” the word being used during Mexican soccer matches only dates back to 2003, which discredits the usage as a tradition. FIFA, which isn’t a fan of inflammatory remarks, has launched an investigation to examine Mexican fans’ use of “puto.”