The San Diego Loyal of the USL Championship soccer league walked off the field and forfeited their game Wednesday night after openly gay Loyal player Collin Martin was allegedly called a homophobic slur by an opposing player. It was the second game in the past week the Loyal forfeited after one of its players was called a slur.
When the Loyal came out for the second half of the game, all the players took a knee and then walked off the field, causing the referee to declare a forfeit. Prior to taking the action, Loyal manager Landon Donovan said he asked the referee to remove the offending player (he said he couldn’t) and then asked Rising manager Rick Schantz and he refused.
“In the first half a member of Phoenix Rising used a homophobic slur directed at Collin Martin. In response we have decided to walk off the pitch in protest,” the Loyal wrote on their Twitter page.
“Last week we made it loud and clear that we do not stand for racism or homophobia. Nothing has changed this week,” the team said, adding a raised fist and rainbow emjois and the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
The Loyal forfeited another game last week when player Elijah Martin was called the N-word by a player from the L.A. Galaxy II. The Galaxy cut the player in response.
The Loyal was leading Phoenix 3-1 when Collin Martin collided with Rising player Junior Flemmings and words were exchanged, where Martin said Flemmings called him the gay slur.
According to a detailed breakdown of the incident by Jeff Rueter of The Athletic, “Multiple sources, including the audio of [Loyal player] Tarek Morad (32) at 0:30, confirm the slur used by Junior Flemmings was ‘batty boy,’ a Jamaican slang term for a gay or effeminate man.”
In a Twitter video posted by Rueter, Donovan walks away in disgust when Schantz seems to excuse the gay slur against Martin by saying either “they’re just playing soccer” or “how long have you been playing soccer?” This came after Donovan appealed to Schantz to “get this out of our game.”
“(Someone) called Collin gay. I can’t go through this any more, man,” Donovan said, according to the San Diego Tribune.
It appears Rick Schantz is saying “he didn’t mean it, they’re just playing soccer” after Landon Donovan states that Collin Martin was called a homophobic slur. pic.twitter.com/CUuvS1W66D— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) October 1, 2020
“We’ve been through a lot the last week,” Donovan said in a video on Twitter about why they forfeited. “We made a vow to ourselves, to our community, to our players, to our club, to USL, that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our game.”
Donovan pointed to a banner inside the stadium that reads “I will act, I will speak” and how the team regretted not forfeiting immediately after the racial slur, instead waiting until after the game ended. When Collin Martin told him he was called a gay slur, “I lost it,” Donovan said, adding “it was devastating to me.”
Flemmings denied he used a gay slur against Martin, tweeting a statement where he said “the accusation is false and my fellow teammates will support my claim.”
“The referee admitted he did not hear any homophobic slurs and was utterly confused by the situation,” Flemmings added. “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.”
He ended his statement by saying, “I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.”
According to Donovan, the referee said he heard Flemmings utter a word toward Martin but said he didn’t know what it meant and therefore could not eject him. That would make sense if Flemmings used a gay slur in a Jamaican dialect that the referee didn’t understand. In the video, Morad, the Loyal player, walks up to Schantz, points at him and says, “I heard ‘batty boy’”
As for Schantz seeming to excuse a slur being said, the coach said “my question was in reference to Donovan’s behavior on the field and in no way was I excusing any homophobic behavior from my players.”
Rueter, The Athletic writer, identifies as bi and was having none of it, writing on Twitter: “You shouldn’t need me to say this, but as a queer man working in soccer: this entire sequence is atrocious, from the player using a slur to Rick Schantz trying to defend it unapologetically.”
The Rising and USL Championship each said they were investigating, with the league saying in a 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.”
Collin Martin came out as gay in 2018 while playing for Minnesota United of MLS. He joined the Loyal, who play in the second division USL Championship league, this season.
The forfeit was a real statement of principle by the Loyal, standing up for a teammate and made more powerful because the forfeit ended the Loyal’s chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
“They were very clear in that moment they were giving up all hope of being in the playoffs even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league handily, but they said it doesn’t matter,” Donovan said. “There’s more important things in life and we have to stand up for what we believe in.”