USL Team Exits Match in Protest Following Alleged Use of Anti-Gay Slur

    • Playing Phoenix Rising FC, the Loyal took a knee then walked off the field at the start of the second half.
    • San Diego also forfeited its draw against LA Galaxy II on Sept. 23 over the use of a racial slur.

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San Diego Loyal SC, a USL team managed and co-owned by decorated former U.S. Men’s national team player Landon Donovan, walked off the field in protest at the start of the second half of their Sept. 30 game against Phoenix Rising FC. 

The Loyal, who were up 3-1 in the match, allege that a Phoenix player used a “homophobic slur” directed at Collin Martin, the only openly gay player in the “big five” American sports leagues or top-level men’s soccer leagues. 

In a video captured at halftime, Donovan can be heard arguing with Phoenix head coach Rick Shantz about the incident. Shantz can be heard saying “It’s a part of soccer,” to which Donovan responds, “You’re better than that. … We have to get this out of our game,” then later says to someone off-camera: “He called him gay. He called Collin gay. I can’t go through this sh– again.”

In a video statement released hours after the game, Donovan said he told Schantz that if he pulled the offending player, the Loyal would play, but Schantz would not. 

San Diego SC also vacated its Sept. 23 draw against LA Galaxy II after an opposing player used a racist slur against one of its Black players during the match. In that case, the USL suspended and fine the offending player, Omar Ontiveros, and Galaxy II later announced the parties had mutually agreed to part ways.” 

“We don’t even want to recognize being a part of a match where these types of actions take place,” SD Loyal Chairman Andrew Vassiliadis said at the time. “The Loyal in our name is symbolic of the diversity in our community and as a club we will not stand for this.”

“Last week we made it loud and clear that we do not stand for racism or homophobia. Nothing has changed this week,” the team wrote on Twitter after the latest incident. 

The USL released a statement saying that it is aware of the allegations and an investigation is underway regarding the incident. “Foul and abusive language of any type has absolutely no place in our society and will not be tolerated in USL matches,” the league said. 

San Diego SC joined the USL in March after the city was awarded a USL expansion team in July 2019. Donovan, a future Hall of Famer, was named manager in November, signaling the official end of his two-decade playing career.