The San Diego Loyal team lived up to their name this week when the USL Championship soccer league contender forfeited a game and their chance at the playoffs after an opposing player went unpunished for an alleged homophobic slur he directed at a member of their team this past Wednesday. The move comes after the team forfeited another game last week against the L.A. Galazy II when player Elijah Martin allegedly used a racial slur against another Loyals player. Martin was cut by the Galaxy II in response to the incident.
“I know a lot of people watching from afar probably don’t get it, but we’ve been living it,” Loyal manger London Donovan said in statement posted to Twitter.
According to multiple reports, Phoenix Rising player Junior “Flemmo” Flemmings, used a homophobic slur against Collin Martin, a member of the Loyal team and the only out gay athelete in the league, during a game on Wednesday. (It should be noted that Martin is also the only out player of the big five pro sports leagues in America.) When the referee refused to punish Flemmings — while the referee acknowledged he heard the slur, he was unsure what it meant, — Donovan asked the Phoenix coach to step in and bench the player. When he did not, Loyal team made the decision to take a stand by taking a knee as a team and then walking off the field, forfeiting the game in the process.
Jeff Rueter of The Atlantic tweeted that “multiple sources” confirmed Flemmings called Martin a “batty boy,” a derogatory Jamaican slang term for “gay or effeminate men.” As possibly indicative of the sport's culture, when confronted with the conversation on the field by Donovan and a referee, Phoenix coach Rick Schantz shrugged and said "don't make a big scene, it's got nothing to do with racism." When Donovan pointed out that it was homophobia, Schantz replied "they're competing, how long have you been playing soccer?" The exchange was caught on video.
“At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin,” Flemming said in a statement. “I do not know Collin personally, but I respect all of my opponents equally, Collin included.” He went on to state he was “disappointed” with Loyal’s actions, claiming he had been “mauled and ridiculed online with no opportunity” to defend himself.
Donovan noted that this was just one more incident of bigotry his team has faced in the past two weeks.
“We went through a really hard incident last week in the LA match and we made a vow to ourselves, to our community, to our players, to the club, and to USL that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our game.”
The decision to forfeit the game effectively eliminates the Loyals from playoff contention. In addition, Donovan said the decision was particularly bittersweet for his players because the Loyals were leading 3-1 at the time of their decision.
“I mean, they were kicking Phoenix’s ass,” Donovan said.