Major League Soccer handed a six-game suspension to New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir on Thursday in response to his admitted use of racist language last Saturday in a game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The ban applies to MLS games, but during the duration of the suspension, Vanzeir is also prohibited from appearing in U.S. Open Cup games, MLS Next Pro games and exhibition games.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) April 13, 2023
The league also handed Vanzeir an unspecified fine and stated that it would "require Vanzeir to participate in additional league-mandated training and education sessions, as well as a restorative practices program."
Earthquakes striker Jeremy Ebobisse heard Vanzeir's comments in the second half of the game in Harrison, N.J., and the contest was halted for 21 minutes as players, coaches and officials discussed the matter.
Ebobisse said his team decided to continue playing because Vanzeir said his remark was not directed toward a particular person.
Vanzeir apologized on Tuesday and stepped away from the team. He said in a statement, "I want to sincerely apologize to the players of the Earthquakes. I will do everything I can to be part of the change that needs to happen in this sport and our world. I also want to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the organization and our fans. I made a mistake and will take all the necessary steps to grow.
— Dante Vanzeir (@dantevanzeir) April 10, 2023
"I accept full responsibility for my actions. While I did not intend to cause any harm or offense with my language, I know that I did and for that, I am deeply sorry."
Red Bulls coach Gerhard Struber, who did not immediately remove Vanzeir from the game despite being asked to do so by San Jose coach Luchi Gonzalez, did not receive a fine or suspension from MLS.
Struber said Thursday, "Right now, I could say very clearly ... I must bring Dante out immediately. But it was also, for me, a very, very new situation in my coaching career. I think it's not so easy to always handle everything in the right way, and especially, this was the first time that I was confronted with a direction like that."
Vanzeir, 24, has one goal in six appearances (one start) for the Red Bulls this season, his first year in MLS. He previously played for teams in his native Belgium.
--Field Level Media