(Reuters) - Phoenix Rising FC midfielder Junior Flemmings has been suspended for six games for using a homophobic slur against San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin, the USL Championship said in a statement here on Tuesday.
The incident occurred at the end of the first half of a match last week, which the Loyal were leading 3-1, and prompted a heated dispute between the two managers.
The Loyal emerged for the second half of the game but immediately walked off the field, forfeiting the match and effectively ending their hope of reaching the playoffs.
The USL Championship is the country’s second-tier competition below Major League Soccer.
Martin, who is openly gay, said in a video on Twitter that he had the full support of his team mates and manager Landon Donovan, who demanded action against Flemmings.
“I never had a word said to me like that,” said Martin. “I felt personally attacked.”
Flemmings in a social media post last week denied having used a homophobic slur against Martin.
His ban follows an investigation that included 11 interviews with players, coaches and match officials, the USL Championship said, and covers the whole of the playoffs.
Phoenix Rising FC said in a statement here on their website that Flemmings will remain on administrative leave through the end of his contract on Nov. 30.
“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,” said Phoenix Rising FC General Manager Bobby Dulle.
Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris
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