Junior Flemmings of Phoenix Rising has been banned for six matches for a homophobic insult aimed at San Diego Loyal’s Collin Martin.
The Jamaican was found to have directed “foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur” at Martin, who is the only openly gay player in football in the United States.
The incident in last Wednesday’s USL Championship match prompted San Diego to walk off the pitch in protest. The referee had mistakenly sent Martin off, apparently thinking he was the abuser as he reported Flemming’s comments to the officials.
A heated discussion between head coach Landon Donovan, opposite number Rick Schantz and the referee followed. San Diego returned to the pitch after half-time but only to take a knee before walking off again.
Flemmings issued a statement on social media denying the abuse, but Rising placed him on administrative leave last Thursday while the USL conducted an investigation into the incident.
The USL Championship is one tier below Major League Soccer in the United States.
On Tuesday, the league confirmed the punishment: stating: “The USL Championship announced on Tuesday, following an investigation that included interviews with 11 individuals, including players, coaches and match officials, that it has issued a six-game suspension and undisclosed fine to Phoenix Rising FC’s Junior Flemmings for the use of foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur during the club’s match against San Diego Loyal SC on September 30.
“Per the player’s contract, Flemmings could also be subject to additional discipline from Phoenix Rising FC and remains on administrative leave.
“Flemmings’ suspension covers the entirety of the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.”
We seek to forgive, educate and inspire. We ask those that support our stand to please be respectful with Junior Flemmings, Rick Schantz and the entire Phoenix organization.#SDLoyal #RisingTogether pic.twitter.com/fUKkEokXIQ
— San Diego Loyal (@SanDiegoLoyal) October 3, 2020