San Diego Loyal Coach Landon Donovan (left) speaks with referees and Phoenix Rising Coach Rick Schantz. Screenshot of Sept. 30 broadcast.

The Phoenix Rising FC player who directed a homophobic slur at San Diego Loyal SC midfielder Collin Martin was suspended Tuesday by USL Championship for six games, covering the entire 2020 playoffs.

Junior Flemmings was also fined an undisclosed amount because of the slur late in the first half Sept. 30. SD Loyal players walked off the field at Torero Stadium at the start of the second half leading 3-1 and forfeited the game.

The suspension of the leading goal scorer in the 2020 season in the second-division men’s soccer league was announced “following an investigation that included interviews from 11 individuals, including players, coaches and match officials,” USL Championship said in a statement.

Shortly after the game, Flemmings issued a statement on his since-deleted Twitter account calling the accusation false and writing that “my fellow teammates will support my claim.” He also wrote that he was “mauled and ridiculed online” and “I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.”

Rising general manager Bobby Dulle issued a statement accepting and supporting the results of this investigation.

“These actions could not be more contrary to the core values of our organization, and we apologize to all who were affected,” the statement said. “We will use this as an opportunity to learn, grow and be a force for change, as we work towards eradicating bias from our sport and our community.”

In addition to the disciplinary actions imposed by USL Championship, Flemmings will remain on administrative leave for the remainder of his contract with the team, which expires Nov. 30.

The team’s statement added that Flemmings would be provided “with the resources he needs to learn and grow from this, so that he may become a model for change in our sport.”

There was no immediate response to an email sent to SD Loyal seeking comment about the suspension.

Both teams also issued a joint statement Saturday pledging “to work together to ensure that this moment could be used by all involved to teach, build and ultimately make our sport, our league and our communities better, more compassionate places.”

The teams are committing to “working together towards the development of educational programs where players, staff and supporters will meet to share their backgrounds and life experiences” to “help foster a greater sense of understanding and empathy towards one another, as well as to bring awareness to the realities of conscious and unconscious biases,” the statement said.

The Sept. 30 game was the second in eight days SD Loyal forfeited because of a slur directed at one of its players.

SD Loyal announced Sept. 25 it would forfeit the standings point from their 1-1 tie with Los Angeles Galaxy II Sept. 23 because of a racial slur directed as SD Loyal midfielder Elijah Martin, who is Black. However, the league’s standings did not subtract the point.

Galaxy II announced they had “mutually agreed to part ways” with defender Omar Ontiveros on Sept. 26, one day after he was suspended by USL Championship for six games because of the racial slur.

— City News Service

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