Landon Donovan walks his San Diego Loyal team off the pitch after an alleged homophobic slur


San Diego Loyal players and their manager Landon Donovan walked off the pitch in protest after an alleged homophobic slur was directed at their openly-gay midfielder Collin Martin. 

Phoenix Rising midfielder Junior Flemmings – who denied the claims –  was accused of making the comment just before half-time which prompted a heated discussion between Donovan, the referee and opposition manager Rick Schantz at the break. 

The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter reported that the term Flemming used was “batty boy,” a Jamaican slur used to belittle gay or effeminate men. 

Donovan was heard telling his opposite number: ‘We have to get this out of our game’. 

His team returned to the pitch for the second half but only to take a knee before walking off. 

Landon Donovan and San Diego Loyal walked off the pitch after an alleged homophobic slur

It was allegedly directed at openly gay midfielder Collin Martin (pictured middle row, far right)

It was allegedly directed at openly gay midfielder Collin Martin (pictured middle row, far right)

Donovan told his opposite manager Rick Rick Schantz: 'we have to get this out of our game'

Donovan told his opposite manager Rick Rick Schantz: ‘we have to get this out of our game’

Martin had originally been sent off for his reaction to the slur but this was later rescinded. The club wrote on Twitter: ‘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.’

This is the second game in a row Donovan’s team have forfeited a match after their defender Elijah Martin was racially abused against LA Galaxy II. The game ended in a 1-1 draw but San Diego Loyal opted to forfeit the match two days later after they were made aware of the incident.

Donovan, who had spells at Everton and LA Galaxy during a 20-year playing career, insisted his team would not stand for bigotry.

San Diego Loyal players returned to the pitch to take a knee before walking off after half-time

San Diego Loyal players returned to the pitch to take a knee before walking off after half-time

‘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, to USL, that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our game.

‘So much so that on our signboards we made a statement saying ‘I will act, I will speak’ so if something happens I’m gonna speak about it I’m gonna act about it because last week our one regret was that we should have done something in the moment when Eliajh was racially abused. 

‘That was our regret, from our players, from me. I wish we would have done something and had we known what had happened I think we would have done something. 

‘At the end of the first half Colin came over to the fourth official after somehow he got red carded and told the fourth official that he had been abused by a homophobic slur by one of their players and when I heard that I lost it because I know what this team has been through.’ 

San Diego Loyal tweeted to say why they had decided to walk off the pitch on Wednesday

San Diego Loyal tweeted to say why they had decided to walk off the pitch on Wednesday

This is the second game in a row Donovan's club have forfeited in the USL Championship

This is the second game in a row Donovan’s club have forfeited in the USL Championship

The former USA international said his team, who were leading 3-1, wanted to continue but agreed they would walk off if Flemmings was not removed by the referee or his team, despite it meaning they would lose any chance of making the play-offs in their debut season.

‘It was a really difficult 20 minutes because in the heat and emotion of the moment our players still wanted to play, they were kicking Phoenix’s a** and that’s a great feeling. But if we wanted to be true to who we are as a club we have to speak, we have to act.

‘Our guys, to their immense credit, said we were not going to stand for this. They were very clear in that moment that they were giving up all hopes of making the play-offs, even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league.

Martin (above) came out as gay in June 2018 while he was playing for Minnesota United

Martin (above) came out as gay in June 2018 while he was playing for Minnesota United

Junior Flemings (left) vehemently denied the accusations in a statement posted on Twitter

Junior Flemings (left) vehemently denied the accusations in a statement posted on Twitter

‘They said it doesn’t matter. There are things more important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in. I have tremendous pride in this group and this organisation.’

Phoenix Rising, who are part-owned by former Chelsea star Didier Drogba, said in a statement they were investigating claims that one of their players used a homophobic slur during the match but that the player in question ‘vehemently denies’ the accusations.

Flemmings revealed himself to be the player in question on Twitter, writing: ‘In our match against San Diego Loyal I was accused of making a homophobic slur towards a San Diego Loyal player. This accusation is false and my fellow team-mates will support my claim.

Phoenix Rising's Junior Flemmings vehemently denied the accusations in a statement

Phoenix Rising’s Junior Flemmings vehemently denied the accusations in a statement 

‘At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin. I do not know Collin personally, but I respect all of my opponents equally, Collin included.’

It is rare for footballers to come out while they are still playing but Martin publicly announced he was gay in June 2018 while he was at Minnesota United. 

The USL Championship issued a statement after the game which read: ‘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. An investigation is currently underway to determine the facts surrounding the incident and more information will be provided as soon as it is available.’ 



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