Discrimination Is So Bad In America, Landon Donovan’s USL Club Forfeit Its Final Two Matches

“We will speak. We will act.”

That was the promise made by San Diego Loyal SC players after teammate Elijah Martin was racially abused in a match against LA Galaxy II last week. The USL club had a plan to join together with Wednesday night’s opponent, Phoenix Rising, to halt the match in the 71st minute to raise banners with the phrase in a show of solidarity against white supremacy.

Unfortunately, the match didn’t reach the 71st minute because of another alleged instance of hate.

For the second straight week, SD Loyal, the club owned and coached by USMNT great Landon Donovan, forfeited a match in which it was either leading or tied, essentially giving up its playoff spot to combat discrimination in the U.S.

“Last week our one regret was we should’ve done something in the moment when Elijah was racially abused,” Donovan said. “We went through a really hard incident last week 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.”

In the 71st minute of last week’s match with LA Galaxy II, Omar Ontiveros directed a racial slur at Loyal midfielder Elijah Martin, who is Black. The club responded by forfeiting the point it earned from the 1-1 draw, refusing to associate with the match in any way. The league suspended Ontiveros and the Galaxy parted ways with the defender

Because this is America in 2020, San Diego couldn’t make it even one more week before more hate speech interrupted another match.

On Wednesday, as the first half ended with the Loyal leading Phoenix 3-1, a result that would have all but put Donovan’s team in the playoffs, Loyal midfielder Collin Martin (unrelated to Elijah) was bizarrely shown a red card. That card was eventually rescinded, but news quickly spread as to what precipitated the incident.

Phoenix’s Jamaican forward Junior Flemmings allegedly uttered a homophobic slur toward Collin Martin, who is one of the few openly gay professional men’s footballers in the world. Flemmings denied using the slur.

After the incident, Donovan ran onto the pitch to confront the referee, yelling: “We’re off the field. Fuck that. We’re not doing this again. Fuck that. FUCK THAT!” 

In solidarity with Collin Martin, SD Loyal players walked off the pitch together for halftime, ready to forfeit the match. Donovan said his players would continue the match if the referee or Rising coach pulled Flemmings from the match. The referee refused, saying he heard the phrase but didn’t know what it meant. Rising coach Rick Schantz refused, standing by his player.

Here’s video of the encounter between Donovan, Schantz and the referee, in which Schantz appears to say homophobic slurs are “a part of soccer.” (Schantz later tried to claim he was referring to Donovan’s behavior, but he appeared completely unconcerned that one of his players may have used a homophobic slur.)

After halftime, players from both teams took the pitch. But before the match could resume, the SD Loyal players simply walked off.

Here’s Landon Donovan giving his side of the story after the match.

The phrase Flemmings allegedly used was “bati boy,” which is homophobic slang for a gay or effeminate man. 

To be clear, Flemmings has flat out denied the allegations that he used a homophobic slur, releasing this statement on Twitter.

People don’t typically make up instances of hate speech; it just doesn’t happen. In one of the videos above, Loyal player Tarek Morad appears pretty adamant the slur was said, and it seems unlikely the club would choose to forfeit a match it led 3-1 and needed to win to reach the playoffs over a made-up utterance. 

Collin Martin released the following statement on Thursday afternoon, explaining what happened from his side of things and giving thanks to his teammates and club for having his back,

Sadly, none of this is surprising.

When the U.S. is led by a president who refuses to condemn white supremacy, who sends not dog whistles but train whistles to white supremacy groups like Proud Boys, discrimination will run rampant. Maybe Flemmings didn’t know Collin Martin was gay, maybe he didn’t mean to be offensive, but the fact he and Ontiveros even allegedly used hate speech during soccer matches is a product of a society so bitterly divided it can’t agree on what is and isn’t acceptable language on the pitch. 

And sadly, folks who see this story will probably write it off as either fake news or the media blowing something out of proportion, unable to accept the rampant, vitriolic hate that runs deep in this country, whether it’s white supremacy or homophobia. 

But hate and discrimination must be called out and condemned at all levels, including from the racist in the White House. 

“We will speak. We will act.”

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