Junior Flemmings, a player for Arizona’s Phoenix Rising football club, has been handed a six-match ban for using homophobic slurs.
San Diego Loyal players staged a walk-out from their second-tier USL Championship game against the club last Wednesday (30 September) after Flemmings targeted gay midfielder Collin Martin with the slur “b***y boy”.
When the referee allowed the game to continue and failed to send off Flemmings, an animated disagreement between the two teams and managers broke out, with San Diego’s entire team eventually walking off the pitch in protest.
Junior Flemmings suspended for ‘foul and abusive language’.
Flemmings, also part of Jamaica’s national team, has now been disciplined after an investigation by the USL Championship.
The sporting body confirmed it had “issued a six-game suspension and undisclosed fine for the use of foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur” during the match at San Diego’s Torero Stadium.
Phoenix Rising FC general manager Bobby Dulle said: “Phoenix Rising accepts and supports the results of this investigation. These actions could not be more contrary to the core values of our organisation, and we apologise to all who were affected.
“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.”
Phoenix Rising says player will remain on leave until end of contract.
In a statement, the club said it had placed Flemmings “on administrative leave for the remainder of his existing contract term with Phoenix Rising which concludes 30 November, 2020.”
The club said it would “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”.
It is unclear whether the player’s contract with the club will be renewed beyond November.
In a previous joint statement, Phoenix Rising and San Diego Loyal vowed 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”.
Collin Martin, who is one of the few openly gay players in the sport, said of the incident: “I never had a word said to me like that [before].
“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.”
According to the BBC, he added: “I was emotional coming off the field not knowing what was going to happen. Not understanding why someone would say that to me.”
Of the San Diego players’ protest, he added: “For this team to show that there are more things that are important than the actual game means a lot.”