Just a week ago, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, Loyal’s Elijah Martin was racially abused by LA Galaxy II player Omar Ontiveros. As a sign of protest, San Diego Loyal SC announced on Friday that it was forfeiting their earned point on Wednesday. And on Saturday, Ontiveros was released by LA Galaxy II following a seven-match suspension given to him by the USL Championship.
Loyal head coach and part-owner Landon Donovan expressed his pride over his club’s actions despite giving up a point that would likely keep them out of the playoffs.
I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this club. What’s the point of the BLM jerseys/armbands, the kneeling before every game and the commitment to ending racism if we don’t address it when it happens right before our eyes? This is NEVER acceptable and we will not stand for it. https://t.co/9ilkYrUHyR— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) September 26, 2020
As a response to the incident, San Diego Loyal players reached out to Rising Phoenix players and they agreed to stop the game in the 71 minute, which was the minute when Martin was racially abused last game, to hold a banner together that said, “I will speak, I will act.”
“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,” Donovan said after Wednesday’s match against Phoenix. “If something happens, I’m going to speak about it and I’m going to act about it.”
However, the banner was not held by both teams as the game did not reach the 71 minute.
Deep into first-half stoppage time, Collin Martin, who is an openly gay player, told the fourth official that he had been targeted by a homophobic slur after being sent off. Donovan and Phoenix Rising head coach Rick Schantz discussed the incident with the referees shortly after the halftime whistle was blown.
The San Diego Loyal walked off the field in protest Wednesday night, saying a Phoenix Rising player used an anti-gay slur directed at openly-gay midfielder Collin Martin.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 1, 2020
Manager Landon Donovan discussed the incident with the referee and Phoenix head coach Rick Schantz. pic.twitter.com/WlOYauQhgV
“It was a really difficult 20 minutes because our players in the heart of the moment, in the passion of the moment, still wanted to play, they were kicking phoenix’s ass, and that’s a great feeling as a soccer player,” Donovan admitted. “But, if we want to be true to who we are as a club, we have to speak, and we have to act.”
Donovan and his players decided that if the player who used to homophobic slur was not removed from the game, either by the officials or Schantz, then they were not going to play. The player was on the pitch before the start of the second half, and as a result, regardless of playoffs being on the line, Loyal players walked off the pitch and forfeited the game being up 3-1.
“The players to their immense credit said we’re not going to stand for this,” Donovan said. “They were very clear in that moment that they were giving up all hopes of making it to playoffs even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league, but they said that it doesn’t matter. There are things more important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in.”
Phoenix Rising released a statement in which they assure that there is an investigation in place. The USL also confirmed that an investigation into the incident is underway.
However, Schantz is under fire after people heard him say, “it’s a part of soccer” in a video that shows the discussion with Donovan and the referees at halftime.
Schantz responded to the criticism with a statement.