USL Championship club San Diego Loyal has forfeited a match for the second-straight week after alleging hateful language from an opposing player, this one costing the team its playoff hopes.
Sad Diego was leading Phoenix Rising 3-1 at halftime Thursday but decided not to continue the match after Phoenix Rising player Junior Flemmings was accused of using a homophobic slur against San Diego’s Collin Martin, who is an out gay man.
Martin, who publicly came out while a member of Minnesota United in 2018, was sent off before halftime and told the fourth official that he was verbally abused.
Flemmings denied making any such comments in a lengthy post on Twitter and said after the game that he stands “in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.” He said he’s “disappointed” in San Diego as he’s been “mauled and ridiculed online with no opportunity to defend himself.”
After a discussion with his team at halftime, SD manager Landon Donovan told the referee and Phoenix coach Rick Schantz that they would forfeit if Flemmings was not removed from the game.
Donovan said the referee admitted he heard the slur, which was in another language, but could not interpret it and thus could not send him off. Schantz would not sub his player out, so SD left the pitch.
Schantz has also issued a statement after video showed a discussion between him, Donovan, and the referees in which the Phoenix coach asks the USMNT legend “How long have you been playing soccer?” Schantz says he was questioning Donovan’s behavior, not the alleged homophobic slurs.
The video is problematic.
The San Diego Loyal walked off the field in protest Wednesday night, saying a Phoenix Rising player used an anti-gay slur directed at openly-gay midfielder Collin Martin.
Manager Landon Donovan discussed the incident with the referee and Phoenix head coach Rick Schantz. pic.twitter.com/WlOYauQhgV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 1, 2020
Phoenix says it is investigating the incident.
“To our guys immense credit, they were very clear in that moment, they were giving up all hopes of making the playoffs even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league handily,” Donovan said. “I have tremendous pride in this group and I’m really proud of this organization.”
According to San Diego’s official site, “Players and both team coaches reportedly heard the slur but the match referees did nothing about it. Instead, Martin was shown a red card that later was rescinded. Flemmings reportedly used the homophobic slur as Phoenix Rising FC pushed up field with counter attacks after Samuel Stanton had scored for the visitors a minute earlier.”
Last week, San Diego drew LA Galaxy II but forfeited the game after LA’s Omar Ontiveros directed a racial slur at Elijah Martin, who was later sent off for two yellow card incidents. Ontiveros was suspended six games by the USL Championship and released by the Galaxy.
Donovan said that the teams had agreed to take a knee in the 71st minute, when the incident occurred against Galaxy II, and hold a banner together to support Elijah Martin.
The game did not get that far.
“We went through a really hard incident in the LA match and we made a vow to ourselves, the community, to our players, to USL, that we would stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our games,” Donovan said. “So much so that we made a statement on our signboards we made a statement saying, ‘I will act, I will speak.’ Last week our one regret was we should’ve done something in the moment when Elijah was racially abused. That was our regret. From our players, from me, I wish I would’ve done something. Had we known what had happened I think we would’ve done something.”
The USL released this statement:
“We are aware of the alleged use of a homophobic slur in tonight’s match between San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC. Foul and abusive language of any type has absolutely no place in our society and will not be tolerated in USL matches. An investigation is currently underway to determine the facts surrounding the incident and more information will be provided as soon as it is available.”
Donovan’s full statement in video is below.
Landon Donovan on why the team decided to forfeit tonight's match against Phoenix Rising FC. #SDvPHX pic.twitter.com/7BcqzZBSrV
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) October 1, 2020