In the final match of the USL Championship regular season with playoff implications, the San Diego Loyal walked off the field to start the second half with a 3-1 lead to protest a homophobic slur its
players said was directed at one of its players.
Collin Martin, who is gay, was the target of the slur at the end of the first half. According to the Loyal, the Rise's Junior
Flemmings used a homophobic slur directed at Martin that was heard by players players and both team coaches. Martin was issued a red card that was later rescinded at halftime after he went
over to the fourth official, Samatha Martinez, and explained what happened.
Landon Donovan, who coaches the Loyal, and Phoenix head coach Rick Schantz met with
the match officials to discuss the incident and rescission of the red card.
Before the start of the second half, Donovan told referee Joseph Salinas and
Schantz that Loyal players agreed they would not continue the game unless Flemmings, who is Jamaican, was removed from the game. Salinas said he could not red card Flemming because he did not
understand the slur -- The Athletic's Jeff Rueter reported it to be "batty boy" -- and Schantz said he would not take
Flemmings out of the game.
"Our guys, to their immense credit, just said, 'We're not going to stand for this,' Donovan said in a postgame interview. "They were very 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 handedly. But they said that doesn't matter, there's things more important
in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in. And so they made the decision to walk off."
It was the second game in a row the Loyal was involved in an incident. It stated it was
forfeiting the point earned in a 1-1 tie against LA Galaxy II because of a racial slur directed at Elijah Martin (no relation to Collin Martin) by Omar Ontiveros, who was quickly
suspended by the USL and released by the Galaxy.
Donovan said the one regret after the Galaxy II game was that the Loyal did not do something in the moment after Elijah Martin was
racially abused. He said Loyal and Rising players had agreed to stop play and hold a banner together in the 71st minute -- the minute of the incident in the Galaxy II games -- saying, "I will speak, I
will act." With that in mind and what his team had been through, he said the latest incident was "devastating."
“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.”
The standings on
the USL's Web site don't currently reflect forfeits in either game.