Earlier this week, the San Diego Loyal walked off the field in the middle of their match against the Phoenix Rising. The professional soccer team explained a player for the opposing team used a homophobic slur against one of their players—and they wouldn’t stand for it.
The slur was directed at midfielder Collin Martin—an openly gay player—by Rising’s Junior Flemmings. After the incident, the entire Loyal team took a knee and walked out.
The San Diego Loyal explained their reasoning to reporters and online.
In the first half a member of Phoenix Rising used a homophobic slur directed at Collin Martin. In response we have decided to walk off the pitch in protest.
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) October 1, 2020
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) October 1, 2020
Loyal ended the first half up 3-1 against the Rising.
Just before the end of the half, a scuffle broke out among the players after Martin collided with Flemmings. In the ensuing melee, Flemmings was accused of calling Martin the slur.
The referee stopped play and gave Martin a red card, but rescinded it after realizing he misunderstood the situation. He did however, give one to Loyal’s coach Landon Donovan for entering the field before the half was over.
Donovan and Rising coach Rick Shantz got into an argument over Flemmings’ use of the slur, with Donovan finally saying his team would play the second half if Shantz subbed out Flemmings, which Rising did not do.
Just as the second half started, Loyal took a knee when the ref blew the whistle. They then stood and all walked off the field together.
The referee ruled it a forfeit, declaring Rising the winner.
Good for you. As a rising supporter I am appalled and disgusted and as a queer non binary person I am hurt. I hope rising forfeits the points. Thank you for doing what is right
— Scruffy (@scruffyTDH) October 1, 2020
Imagine being BLACK. Imagine being GAY. Imagine just wanting to Play the Game of ⚽️,a Game u ❤️ Dearly.
Yet still have to Deal with RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA on the Field…
Think about that for a Second‼️
— MR. GARROS aka ROLAND 🎾 (@deeblock847) October 1, 2020
There is a large LGBT community in the women’s game, and look at how many of them are mistreated? Look at what Rapinoe has copped. It’s a large issue. Glad someone has stepped up to speak out.
— Brian Barrish (@BarrishUSAFL) October 1, 2020
yup, i'm a huge soccer fan, but i've never once paid any attention to a single thing the USL has ever done before this. now a proud fan of @SanDiegoLoyal, just by virtue of them doing the right thing at a time when it was absolutely gutwrenching to do so.
— Steve McDonald 🔻 (@SKMVT) October 1, 2020
This is the second time Loyal had to deal with prejudice against their players. Last week, Loyal tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy II, but requested after the match was over to forfeit.
Elijah Martin, a Black defender on the Loyal team was called a racial slur in the 71st minute by Omar Ontiveros.
Ontiveros was given a one-game suspension from the red card he received at the conclusion of the match and a six-game suspension by the league, ending his season over this incident.
No one in this incident disputed the facts as stated. Loyal doesn’t want to play games against teams that engage in these behaviors.
Owner of the Loyals, Andrew Vassiliadis said in a statement:
“We don’t even want to recognize being a part of a match where these types of actions take place. The Loyal in our name is symbolic of the diversity in our community, and as a club we will not stand for this.”
After the Loyal took a stand on the racial slur last week and the homophobic slur this week, some people online didn’t agree with the team’s decision to walk out on displays of toxic masculinity in sports.
Don't watch, Tony. Players are people, like all employees are, and deserve to be treated like a human. This is a very simple concept.
— Barrett Deitz (@BarrettDeitz) October 1, 2020
No, snookums. Fragile is the idea that you can't respect people, because your own bigotry is your safe place.
Welcome to the new world. Your obsolescence can't come soon enough.
— Naps while wearing a mask 😷 (@NapsAndSarcasm) October 1, 2020
Think about it, Jackie Robinson kept playing and was great and broke racism barriers which is all amazing but what does it mean since its 2020 and racism and bigotry is still a thing.
Walking off is taking a stand showing it won't be tolerated.
— Robert Rimmer (@Rand0mHero) October 1, 2020
I would applaud the team that did it. Change has to start some where and if we continue to allow it to happen nothing will ever get done about it. Lots of talk – this team took action.
— mike serafinchon (@mserafinchon) October 1, 2020
Flemmings of the Phoenix Rising made his own statement about the incident with Martin. He claimed he never said the homophobic slur and the Loyal’s swarmed the referee to try and convince him.
The Rising’s coach, Schantz, was also accused of downplaying the incident in his argument with Coach Donovan.
When Donovan tried to explain the severity of the slur, Schantz said:
“Come on man, don’t make a big scene.”
Donovan emphasized that this was homophobia and Schantz responded:
“How long have you been playing soccer?”
Many online took this to mean Schantz believes slurs are just naturally part of the game which is a common belief in sports dominated with toxic masculinity.
— x-Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) October 1, 2020
— Rick Schantz (@RickSchantz1) October 1, 2020
yeah yall really rejected homophobia when your head coach said it was part of the game, way to go guys
— rory (@rhysevas) October 1, 2020
Dude we heard it, the audio was clear. It was an effort to minimize something that is intolerable..the context and audio is all there…just admit a mistake..because that WAS soccer, but shouldn’t be anymore.
— Afmir Lopez (@Affy619) October 1, 2020
Due to this forfeit, the Loyal are out of any chance to make the playoffs. Their forfeit, despite their lead in the match, will hopefully be seen as a powerful message against toxic masculinity and bigotry in sports.
The USL is still investigating the matter and stressed that they do not support these slurs:
“We are aware of the alleged use of a homophobic slur in tonight’s match between San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC. Foul and abusive language of any type has absolutely no place in our society and will not be tolerated in USL matches.”