USL Championship side San Diego Loyal forfeited their fixture against Phoenix Rising on Wednesday evening after an alleged homophobic comment was made towards openly gay midfielder Collin Martin.
Loyal had been leading 3-1 when a Phoenix Rising player was accused of making a homophobic slur on the stroke of half time.
The team returned after the break, but after the referee blew the whistle to signal the restart, they took the knee and then walked off the field in protest, forfeiting a match they had been on course to win and ending their chances of reaching the playoffs in the process.
Loyal are managed by former USA international and Everton forward Landon Donovan who insisted his team take a stand against bigotry of all forms.
The San Diego side forfeited the point that they earned during their 1-1 with LA Galaxy II on 23 September after midfielder Elijah Martin was the victim of an alleged racist slur. Galaxy have since released the player accused of making the racist remark.
“We went through a really hard incident last week in the LA match and 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,” said Donovan, who is also the club’s executive vice president, in a video on the San Diego Loyal’s official Twitter account.
“Last week our one regret was we should have done something in the moment when Elijah was racially abused.
“We agreed with Phoenix before the game in the 71st minute – that was the minute it happened to Elijah last week – we were going to stop the game, we were going to hold a banner together that said: ‘I will speak, I will act‘.”
Donovan then revealed that just before half time, Martin informed the fourth official that a homophobic slur had been aimed at him. The team agreed at the break that they would forfeit the match if the player who made the comment was not removed by the officials or the Phoenix coach.
“When I heard that, I lost it,” he added. “If we want to be true to who we are as a club we have to speak and we have to act.”