The San Diego Loyal and Phoenix Rising faced off in Wednesday's USL Championship match but the game ended early in shocking fashion. Prior to the start of the second half, the Loyal walked off the field in protest after a Rising player allegedly used an anti-gay slur.
According to Jeff Reuter of The Athletic, Phoenix midfielder Junior Flemmings hurled the slur towards Loyal midfielder Collin Martin. Flemmings reportedly called Martin a "batty boy," which is a Jamaican slur that is meant to demean gay men. Martin announced to the public that he is gay back in 2018 at a pride night event when he was with the Minnesota United.
The entire San Diego roster took a knee to begin the second half before making their way off the field in protest.
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
Flemmings wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night "at no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin."
United States soccer legend Landon Donovan, who is the coach of the Loyal, got involved in a confrontation with Rising head coach Rick Schlantz over how the teams should handle the situation after the slur was heard.
"At the start of halftime of the Phoenix Rising FC match with San Diego Loyal SC, I was heard on video asking San Diego's Head Coach Landon Donovan how long he has been part of soccer," Schantz wrote on Twitter. "My question was in reference to Donovan's behavior on the field with the referee, and in no way was I excusing any alleged homophobic behavior from my players."
The USL released a statement following the walk-out and confirmed that the situation is being investigated.
"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."
It's not the first time the Loyal have been involved in a situation like this of late. In September, LA Galaxy II's Omar Ontiveros uttered a racial slur toward a Loyal player. Ontiveros was suspended six games before being released by him team.