(Reuters) - San Diego Loyal walked off the field halfway through their USL Championship match against Phoenix Rising after an alleged homophobic slur was directed at their openly-gay midfielder Collin Martin.
The incident occurred at the end of the first half with Loyal leading 3-1, resulting in a heated argument between the managers of the two teams. The San Diego players emerged for the second half but took a knee before leaving the field.
Loyal last week forfeited a match against LA Galaxy II after a racial slur was directed at midfielder Elijah Martin by Omar Ontiveros, who has since been suspended by the league. Galaxy have since mutually agreed to part ways with the defender.
“We went through a really hard incident last week and we made a vow to ourselves, to our community, to our players, to the club, to USL that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our game,” Loyal manager Landon Donovan said.
“Last week our one regret was we should have done something in the moment when Elijah was racially abused. That was our regret. I wish we had done something.
“...Our guys, to their credit, said we were not going to stand for this. They were clear in that moment that they were giving up all hopes of making the playoffs, even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league.”
Martin later wrote on Twitter that Rising’s Junior Flemmings had directed the homophobic slur at him.
“During the stoppage time in play, I tried telling the ref that a gay slur had been directed towards me, however he got confused and thought I called him gay - hence why I was mistakenly given a red card thereafter,” Martin said.
“Once that it was cleared up with the ref... Flemmings came over and told me that he knew of my ‘situation’ (I’m an out gay man) and that he didn’t call me a slur... he was backtracking and attempting to deny what he said.
“Why would he say that slur to me if he knew I was gay?”
Flemmings said the accusations were false.
“At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin. I do not know Collin personally, but I respect all of my opponents equally, Collin included,” Flemmings said on Twitter. “I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.”
The USL, which is the country’s second-tier competition below Major League Soccer, said it was aware of the incident and would investigate the matter.
Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru and Manasi Pathak in Chennai; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond
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