San Diego’s professional soccer team walked off the field during a match that it was winning on Wednesday after an opposing team member allegedly hurled a homophobic slur at an openly gay player.
The San Diego Loyal SC said a member of Phoenix Rising “used a homophobic slur directed at Collin Martin.”
“In response we have decided to walk off the pitch in protest,” the team wrote on Twitter. Martin is openly gay and came out in 2018. At the time he was said to be the only out gay man in any major professional sport in the U.S.
San Diego was winning the match 3-1 when it decided to forfeit, which may also cost the team its playoff hopes, NBC Sports reported.
Phoenix Rising said in a statement that it is "investigating the claim of a homophobic slur being used by one its players who has vehemently denied these allegations. Phoenix Rising stands with the USL in rejecting and punishing any homophobic behavior."
The United Soccer League also said it is looking into the alleged bigotry.
“Foul and abusive language of any type has absolutely no place in our society and will not be tolerated in USL matches,” the league wrote in a statement late Wednesday. “An investigation is currently underway to determine the facts surrounding the incident and more information will be provided as soon as it is available.”
The San Diego team's action came a week after it walked off the field in another game over an alleged racist comment directed at a Black player by a member of Los Angeles Galaxy. After the Sept. 23 incident, the Galaxy player was suspended for six games by USL Championship and released from the Los Angeles team, NBC Sports reported.
“We don’t even want to recognize being a part of a match where these types of actions take place,” the San Diego team’s chairman, Andrew Vassiliadis, said in a statement at the time. “The Loyal in our name is symbolic of the diversity in our community and as a club we will not stand for this.”
In a tweet Wednesday night after forfeiting the game against Phoenix, the team said, “Last week we made it loud and clear that we do not stand for racism or homophobia. Nothing has changed this week." The post included the hashtag “All Black Lives Matter.”
The team's head coach, Landon Donovan, said that the past week since the Sept. 23 incident has been difficult for the team.
"I understand that most people watching from afar probably don’t really get it, but we’ve been living it," he said. The club made a vow "that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, things that don’t belong in our game."
He acknowledged that forfeiting Wednesday's match would likely mean the Loyal SC would not make the playoffs, but, he said, "There are more important things in life, and we have to stick up for what we believe in."