September 30’s USL match ended early when there was a decision by the San Diego Loyal to forfeit in protest of a homophobic slur used by Phoenix Rising player Junior Flemmings. The slur was directed at Loyal player Collin Martin, who is openly gay. The match was the last of the regular season and crucial for the Loyal’s playoff hopes, yet the team decided to forfeit the match despite being ahead three goals to one at the half.
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) October 1, 2020
Homophobic “B—- boy” Slur Prompts San Diego Loyal Forfeit In Protest
A week earlier, a Los Angeles Galaxy II player used a racial slur against Loyal defender Elijah Martin in the 71st minute of their game. In response, players from the Loyal and Phoenix Rising planned to stop their game in the 71st minute to hold a banner together that said “I will speak, I will act.”
“For me as a coach, in my mind, with my players, an immediate reaction would have been more warranted,” Rising head coach Rick Schantz said at the time the slur against Elijah Martin occurred. “If that ever happened to us, I would expect our players to support and defend each other.”
Means a lot, Phoenix.
Thanks for the support. 🖤
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) September 26, 2020
But that second half demonstration never took place. Just as the first half was coming to a close the referee issued a red card to Loyal midfielder Collin Martin. Eventually that red card was rescinded when the referee realized he had misunderstood what Martin had said. The ref believed Martin called somebody “gay,” when in fact he was describing what had happened to him.
Conference Between Referees And Coaches Caught On Video
Video captured the conference between Loyal coach Landon Donovan, Rising coach Schantz, and the officiating crew. At one point Loyal defender Tarek Morad approaches Schantz and can be heard telling him “Coach, your player called my gay teammate a b—- boy. You’re not dumb, you know what that means.” The term in question is a very offensive Jamaican slur for an effeminate or gay man.
The San Diego Loyal walked off the field in protest Wednesday night, saying a Phoenix Rising player used an anti-gay slur directed at openly-gay midfielder Collin Martin.
Manager Landon Donovan discussed the incident with the referee and Phoenix head coach Rick Schantz. pic.twitter.com/WlOYauQhgV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 1, 2020
When he was alerted to the situation, Donovan asked the referees to suspend the offending Rising player, Junior Flemmings. After a heated exchange with the Rising’s coach, Donovan departed for the locker room. Originally the Loyal planned to play on, but after the referee refused to suspend Flemmings and Schantz refused to even sub the player off the field, the Loyal players walked off the field in protest moments into the second half.
“We don’t even want to recognize being a part of a match where these types of actions take place.”
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) September 25, 2020
Junior Flemmings Denies Using Slur That Sparked Loyal’s Forfeit In Protest
Flemmings denied the accusations in a statement posted on social media the night of the incident.
“This accusation is false and my fellow teammates will support my claim,” Flemmings said in a statement posted on social media late Wednesday night. “At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin … I am disappointed in San Diego’s actions this evening as I have been mauled and ridiculed online with no opportunity to defend myself … I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.”
Flemmings has since deleted his twitter account.
Phoenix Rising Announce Flemmings and Schantz Taking Administrative Leave
Omar Ontiveros, who used a racial slur against Elijah Martin, was given a six-match suspension and an undisclosed fine for the incident from the USL Championship, and was later released by LA Galaxy II. It remains to be seen what punishment, if any, Flemmings will receive. However Phoenix Rising announced Thursday, October 1, that both Flemmings and coach Schantz would be taking administrative leave following Wednesday’s events.
— x-Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) October 2, 2020
Collin Martin’s Message To Junior Flemmings And Full Statement On Loyal Forfeit In Protest
Collin Martin hopes that whatever the result of the investigation, that it will be a learning experience for Flemmings:
“When I read Flemmings’ statement, I said that it’s really unfortunate that he said that. Because I’m going to come after him hard tomorrow. It’s one thing to say that, and he could have owned up to it, he could have subbed himself off, or the coach could have dealt with it. Listen, you know me: I just want to educate the guy. He could make a big difference on his team, in his community, back in Jamaica, and be an example. The fact that he doesn’t see that and he thinks he can demean other people for their sexuality or just in general… what he was saying to me before (the slur) was totally inappropriate. He feels like he can get away with it all. I hope it’s a learning experience. I hope he learns he should never use that word again, because he can be better than that.”
My statement on what happened in last nights match. The response that followed from my coaches, teammates, and the entire @SanDiegoLoyal organization was truly moving. They had my back and wanted to make a statement that we aren’t going to stand for this hate in our game. pic.twitter.com/yhTxeL2XkC
— Collin Martin (@martcw12) October 1, 2020