FORMER Everton striker Landon Donovan has vowed to eradicate bigotry from American soccer after forfeiting a league match over an alleged homophobic slur towards one of his players.
Donovan, now coach of San Diego Loyal, walked off the pitch in protest alongside his squad when they led 3-1 at the start of the second half against Phoenix Rising.
It is alleged Phoenix midfielder Junior Flemmings — who denies the claims — used the term ‘batty boy’ to insult San Diego’s Collin Martin at the end of the first 45 minutes.
Martin, 25, who is openly gay, was sent off for his reaction, but that has since been rescinded.
Ex-USA striker Donovan, 38, agreed to continue the game but only if Flemmings was removed.
But the referee argued: “I can’t send someone off for something I don’t understand.”
So San Diego took the decision to walk off — which ended any play-off chances in their debut season.
Phoenix boss Rick Schantz can be heard during the match dismissing the claims, before Donovan yells back: “What do you mean this isn’t a big deal? We have to get this out of our game.”
This is the second game in a row Loyal have forfeited after defender Elijah Martin was racially abused against LA Galaxy II.
That match ended 1-1 but San Diego opted to forfeit it two days later after they were made aware of the incident.
We will not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our game.
Donovan said: “We went through a really hard incident last week in the LA match.
“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.
“On our signboards we made a statement saying ‘I will act, I will speak’. Last week our one regret was that we should have done something when Eliajh was racially abused.
“And when I heard Martin had been abused I lost it because I know what this team has been through.
“Our guys, to their immense credit, said we were not going to stand for this.
“If we wanted to be true to who we are as a club we have to speak, we have to act.”
Phoenix Rising, who are part-owned by former Chelsea star Didier Drogba, “vehemently deny” the allegations but are investigating them.
Flemmings said on social media: “This accusation is false and my team-mates will support my claim.
“I do not know Collin personally, but I respect all of my opponents equally, Collin included.”
The USL Championship – who are also investigating the incident – said in a statement after the game: “Foul and abusive language of any type has absolutely no place in our society and will not be tolerated in USL matches.”