‘I was so sick of seeing our players go through this’: Landon Donovan insists San Diego Loyal stars ‘saw the bigger meaning’ when they refused to play on after openly-gay midfielder Collin Martin suffered homophobic slur
- San Diego Loyal stars forfeited their clash with Phoenix Rising following abuse
- Phoenix’s Junior Flemmings reportedly made a homophobic slur at Collin Martin
- Donovan reveals how his players quickly came to the decision to forfeit the game
- Decision was influenced by an incident of racial abuse the week before
- Martin, who is openly gay, found the incident distressing, Donovan says
Landon Donovan, whose San Diego Loyal stars refused to play on after a homophobic slur was directed at a team-mate, has revealed how players reached the momentous decision during half-time, even though it would cost them a place in the play-offs.
Donovan says his players were incensed after Phoenix Rising player Junior Flemmings allegedly made the homophobic comment to openly-gay Loyal midfielder Collin Martin during the two side’s USL Championship match on October 1.
Flemmings denies any wrongdoing but has since received a six-match ban and was fined for the incident.
San Diego Loyal coach Landon Donovan protests to the officials and his opposite number, Phoenix Rising coach Rick Schantz, during half-time about an alleged homophobic slur
During the interval, Donovan and his team took the decision that they would forfeit the match if the referee and Phoenix coach, Rick Schantz, did not remove Flemmings from the game.
‘When the adrenaline is going and you are beating a very good team at half-time, everybody wants to play,’ the former Everton and LA Galaxy star Donovan told Sky Sports News.
‘It was very difficult at half-time to settle down and see the bigger picture. It wasn’t just any game, it was our last game of the season, which, if we’d won, we would have likely made the play-offs.
Phoenix Rising midfielder Junior Flemmings denied he had used a homophobic slur
‘For us, it was so final in that moment that the season was over. We didn’t want it to end that way but I think everybody saw the bigger meaning in what we were doing.’
Donovan said that the group had been influenced by an incident the week before when Loyal’s Elijah Martin was racially abused by LA Galaxy second-team player Omar Ontiveros, according to Sky Sports News.
Loyal took no action during that game, although Ontiveros was subsequently handed a six-match ban and fined. Loyal decided to forfeit the match – which had ended in a 1-1 draw.
The players from San Diego Loyal returned to the field to take the knee at the start of the second half, before leaving the field following their decision to forfeit the game
So, when Martin reported abuse the following week, Donovan knew he and his players had to act.
‘My first reaction was kind of like a father,’ said Donovan. ‘I reacted so emotionally because I was so sick of seeing our players go through this.’
The players returned to the field for the start of the second half and took a knee before departing.
Donovan said that Martin, whom he describes as a ‘hero’, had struggled to come to terms with the incident, because he felt responsible for bringing the Loyal’s season to a premature close.
Martin is the only openly-gay player in US professional football. The situation is still not resolved with Donovan demanding an apology from Flemmings.
Coach Donovan has been praised for the stance he and his players took against Phoenix