A professional footballer for US team Phoenix Rising FC has been suspended for six games for allegedly using a homophobic slur against another player.
The comment was made by Junior Flemmings [above, left] against openly gay San Diego Loyal FC player Collin Martin [above, right] during a game last week.
The incident made global headlines after Martin's teammates walked off the pitch at half-time in protest. San Diego Loyal manager Landon Donovan later won praise for recording a video passionately defending Martin.
Flemmings, who has also received an undisclosed fine, denies using the slur.
He is now on leave and could face further discipline, following a USL Championship investigation that included interviews with 11 people players, coaches and match officials.
Flemmings’ suspension covers the entirety of the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.
The USL last week announced an Institute for Sport and Social Justice partnership which will see The Institute provide league-wide sensitivity training and education ahead of the 2021 season.
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"Prejudiced language and bigotry has no place in sport"
Rising FC and San Diego Loyal SC have also released a joint statement announcing the clubs' joint educational programme plans following the fallout.
The statement in full:
"Yesterday, the ownership groups of San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC met to discuss the unfortunate events of this past Wednesday evening and pledged to work together to ensure that this moment could be used by all involved to teach, build, and ultimately make our sport, our league, and our communities better, more compassionate places.
"To help foster a greater sense of understanding and empathy towards one another, as well as to bring awareness to the realities of conscious and unconscious biases, the clubs have committed to working together towards the development of educational programs where players, staff and supporters will meet to share their backgrounds and life experiences.
“'Prejudiced language and bigotry has no place in sport or anywhere else for that matter,' said Berke Bakay, Governor of Phoenix Rising FC. 'The on-field events of Wednesday’s match could not be more contrary to the values of our organization. Bringing both clubs together to fight prejudice will undoubtedly lead to great things. We look forward to the implementation of these educational programs and hope that they can serve as a model for our league.'
"'We’ve received affirmation and an outpouring of support following our actions these last two matches,' said Warren Smith, Co-Founder and President of SD Loyal SC. 'The purpose of our stand was to raise awareness, spread love and eliminate hate in all forms. We believe in second chances and look forward to working with Phoenix Rising on productive ways we can forgive, educate, and grow from these moments.'
"The two clubs also look forward to facing each other again during the 2021 season.
"With love and respect,
"San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC."
(Top pictures: Wiki/sdloyal.com)