San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin says he appreciates the solidarity shown for him by his team-mates after they walked off the pitch after a homophobic slur was allegedly directed at him.
Leading 3-1 at half-time against Phoenix Rising, Loyal walked off the pitch at the beginning of the second half, forfeiting the game after Martin said Rising’s Junior Flemmings called him a ‘batty boy’.
U.S. legend Landon Donovan, now manager of Loyal, says his players had agreed they would not continue if Flemmings was still on the pitch for the second half.
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“It was a really difficult 20 minutes because in the heat and emotion of the moment our players still wanted to play, they were kicking Phoenix's ass and that's a great feeling. But if we wanted to be true to who we are as a club we have to speak, we have to act,” Donovan explained afterwards.
“Our guys, to their immense credit, said we were not going to stand for this. They were very clear in that moment that they were giving up all hopes of making the playoffs, even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league.
“They said it doesn't matter. There are things more important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in. I have tremendous pride in this group and this organisation.”
Now, in a statement on Twitter, Martin has given his explanation of what happened.
“In last night’s game against Phoenix Rising, an exchange between Junior Flemmings and myself escalated to the point of him calling me a ‘Bati Boy’, which is a homophobic slur that can be translated to ‘f*****’.
“This is not the first time I’ve heard this homophobic slur, however it’s the first time in my eight-year playing career that a slur has been directed at me during a game.
“During the next stoppage in play, I tried telling the ref that a gay slur had been directed towards me, however he got confused and thought I called him gay – hence why I was given a red card thereafter.
“Once it was cleared up with the ref, as well as explaining to the fourth official and my coach what had transpired, Flemmings came over and told me that he knew of my “situation” (I’m an out gay man) and that he didn’t call me a slur. At this point it is clear to me that he was backtracking and attempting to deny what he said.
“Why would he say that slur to me if he knew I was gay?
“What followed next is what I truly want to focus on and that is the response of my coaches, team-mates, and the organisation. Their collective decision to walk off the field in solidarity and forfeit the match speaks volumes of their support for me and what this organisation is standing up to.
“Ultimately, I hope this can be another example that we have a long way to go in educating ourselves and kicking hate out of our game.”