San Diego soccer team walks off pitch after opponent allegedly calls gay player an anti-gay slur

Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin advances the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match against FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. FC Dallas beat Minnesota United 5-3. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Collin Martin came out in 2018. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

A match between the San Diego Loyal and Phoenix Rising in the USL Championship, the second-tier of U.S. soccer behind the MLS, ended prematurely on Wednesday after a San Diego walk-off in protest of an alleged anti-gay slur from a Phoenix player.

San Diego tweeted after the incident that a slur was directed at midfielder Collin Martin, who announced in 2018 that he is gay.

The San Diego players took a knee at the beginning of the second half then exited the pitch.

Phoenix midfielder Junior Flemmings who allegedly used the slur. According to The Athletic’s Jeff Reuter, Flemmings called Martin “bati boy,” a Jamaican slur used to belittle gay or effeminate man.

San Diego co-owner Landon Donovan part of walk-out

USMNT legend Landon Donovan, who co-owns and manages San Diego, could be seen in a heated confrontation with Phoenix manager Rick Schlantz over how to proceed before joining his players in the walk-off.

Donovan can be heard saying “We have to get this out of our game ... it’s homophobia.” Schlantz appears to respond by asking Donovan, who is second all-time in appearances for the USMNT, how long he’s been in soccer.

Collin Martin releases statement

The day after the match, Martin released a statement from his own account providing his side of the story, which he said was the first time he has been called a slur during a game in his eight-year pro career.

Martin said Flemmings called him the slur during an exchange. At the next stoppage of play, Martin said he attempted to tell a referee what Flemmings had said, but the official got confused and thought Martin was calling him gay, leading to a misguided red card. The mistake was eventually cleared up, but Flemmings then approached Martin and denied he used the slur, but said he was aware Martin is gay.

Martin applauded the solidarity Donovan and his teammates showed toward him.

USL, Phoenix investigating alleged slur

The USL released a statement confirming it is aware of the alleged slur and is investigating the matter:

“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.”

One of Phoenix’s co-owners, former MLB pitcher Brandon McCarthy, tweeted that Flemmings denied ever using the slur in response. A statement from Phoenix soon followed, saying it is investigating the claim of a slur.

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