The USL Championship handed Phoenix Rising’s Junior Flemmings a six-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for directing an anti-LGBTQ slur at San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin during last Wednesday’s game.
Flemmings’s suspension covers the entirety of the 2020 USL Championship playoffs. Per the player’s contract, Flemmings could also be subject to additional discipline from Phoenix Rising FC and remains on administrative leave.
The incident occurred at Torero Stadium in the first half of the match and resulted in the Loyal walking off the pitch in protest.
After the incident, Landon Donovan, former U.S. national team starter and current Loyal co-owner, and Rising coach Rick Schantz discussed what happened with match officials, with Donovan reacting incredulously to Schantz’s approach to what occurred. At one point in the discussion, Schantz said, “Come on man, don’t make a big scene.”
The USL Championship issued a statement after the match, saying an investigation into the incident was already underway. The league later placed Flemmings on administrative leave.
After the game, Martin also released a statement on Twitter accusing Fleming of directing the slur at him. He explained the confusion between officials after one referee “got confused and thought I called him gay–hence why I was mistakenly given a red card thereafter.”
The 26-year-old came out as gay in 2018 while playing for the Minnesota United of the MLS, making him at the time the only out active athlete in all men’s major league sports in the U.S.
On Monday, Schantz released a statement apologizing for his comments during his conversation with Donovan and the officials.
“At the time I did not understand the accusation fully, and my immediate reaction was to defend my player and my team. I made comments captured by an open mic that were dismissive of the accusation and have been interpreted that I feel that anti-gay comments are simply part of the game,” Schantz said.
“While this was not my intent or personal belief, upon reflection, I fully understand my comments were wrong. I also understand the justifiable anger and I apologize for the pain I’ve caused.”
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