Phoenix Rising player Junior Flemmings given six game ban for homophobic comment
The incident occurred in a game between Phoenix Rising and San Diego Loyal
Phoenix Rising midfielder Junior Flemmings has been banned for six games by United Soccer League for using a homophobic slur against San Diego Loyal's Collin Martin.
During the game, the referee did not take action against Flemmings, claiming to have heard the word said but not in the supposed context, and could therefore not send the player off.
Landon Donovan, San Diego coach, consequently led his team in walking off the field in protest and surrendering the points in the process. The pitchside conversation between Donovan, the officials and Phoenix manager Rick Schantz is available to watch below.
This is brilliant from Landon Donovan after the alleged homophobia towards one of his players.
Zero tolerance of bigotry is the only way to root it out of the game pic.twitter.com/y59WbSg5fF
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) October 1, 2020
"I never had a word said to me like that," said Martin, who is openly gay.
"I have heard homophobic language throughout my career and growing up but not to the point where it was directed at me like that. I felt personally attacked.
"I was emotional coming off the field not knowing what was going to happen. Not understanding why someone would say that to me."
He also said that he was grateful for the support of his teammates, adding: "For this team to show that there are more things that are important than the actual game means a lot."
Flemmings had denied having using the slur but the USL Championship says his ban follows an investigation that included 11 interviews with players, coaches and match officials.
Phoenix have confirmed in a statement that Flemmings "will remain on administrative leave for the remainder of his existing contract term with Phoenix Rising which concludes November 30, 2020. The team will provide Flemmings with the resources he needs to learn and grow from this, so that he may become a model for change in our sport."
“We will use this as an opportunity to learn, grow and be a force for change, as we work towards eradicating bias from our sport and our community,” said General Manager Bobby Dulle.