Soccer Player Suspended Following Alleged Anti-Gay Slur

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday October 7, 2020

Junior Flemmings, a player with Phoenix Rising, has been fined and suspended for six games following allegations that he hurled a homophobic slur at openly gay San Diego Loyal player Collin Martin, CNN reports.

The suspension "covers the entirety of the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs," according to the United Soccer League, the CNN story said. The team said that Flemmings is on administrative leave and will remain so through the end of his current contract, which expires at the end of November.

Phoenix Rising General Manager Bobby Dulle said that the alleged slur "could not be more contrary to the core values of our organization, and we apologize to all who were affected."

Flemmings has denied having called Martin the slur, but the USL Championship said in a statement that it had suspended and fined Flemmings after conducting "an investigation that included interviews with 11 individuals, including players, coaches and match officials". The USL also said that Flemmings might still face additional disciplinary measures, ESPN reported.

A joint statement by the two teams posted at the Phoenix Rising website announced that "the clubs have committed to working together towards the development of educational programs where players, staff and supporters will meet to share their backgrounds and life experiences."

Meantime, Loyal coach Landon Donovan told CNN that he was "impressed" by Martin "as a human being, first to have the courage to come out in a very macho sport, second of all to have the level of security he has as a human being and an individual, and then just the way he handles himself on a day-to-day basis.

"It is an immense source of pride for me to be able to lead a young man like that," Donovan added.

Martin reported the slur to a referee toward the end of the first half of the Sept. 30 match. The referee initially thought the Martin was directing the slur at him and gave Martin a red card, which he then rescinded once he understood that Martin was claiming to have been called the slur by a Phoenix Rising player, the ESPN story recounted.

As previously reported at EDGE, Donovan led the entire team off the field after halftime during the Sept. 30 match, forfeiting the game in protest even though the Loyal were ahead 3-1.

The walk-off was the second time in two consecutive matches that the Loyal left the field and forfeited a game in protest of a slur by an opposing team's player. On Sept. 23, Loyal was tied 1 - 1 with the Los Angeles Galaxy II when Galaxy II player Omar Ontiveros allegedly called the Loyal's Elijah Martine a racial slur, and the Loyal quit the match in protest.

Ontiveros was subsequently dropped from the Galaxy II, media reports said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.