A soccer match between the San Diego Loyal and Phoenix Rising teams ended in a chaotic forfeiture as the San Diego team left the field in protest. Players reported that a member of the Phoenix Rising yelled homophobic slurs at openly gay San Diego player Collin Martin.
The match began without incident the evening of September 30, with the players competing through the first half of the game. The second half, however, began with San Diego taking a knee in protest. The team then walked off the field, forfeiting the match after the first pitch. Yahoo Sports reports that Phoenix midfielder Junior Flemmings allegedly used the slur during the first half of the game. According to the report, Flemmings called Martin a “batty boy,” the Jamaican equivalent of “f*ggot.”
A heated confrontation then ensued on the field between San Diego manager/co-owner Landon Donovan and Phoenix manager Rick Schantz. In a video of the exchange, Donovan can be heard to say “That’s homophobia.” Schantz appears to respond by saying “How long have you been playing soccer?” Donovan exited the field along with his team following the argument.
Later that same night, the United Soccer League released a statement regarding the match. “We are aware of the alleged use of a homophobic slur in tonight’s match between San Diego Loyal SC and Phoenix Rising FC,” it reads. “Foul and abusive language of any type has absolutely no place in our society and will not be tolerated in USL matches. An investigation is currently underway to determine the facts surrounding the incident and more information will be provided as soon as it is available.” The Phoenix Rising Twitter account also tweeted that the team is conducting a full investigation of the slur, though added that the players deny using any kind of homophobic language.
Collin Martin came out in 2018, becoming the first active male professional soccer player to do so.