Junior Flemmings, the Jamaican international, has been put on administrative leave while an investigation takes place into allegations that he used a homophobic term during a United Soccer League (USL) match on 30 September.
The Kingston-born attacking midfielder, who plies his trade in the North American USL for Phoenix Rising FC, has been accused of hurling an homophobic slur at opposing midfielder Collin Martin following confusion surrounding the referee’s red card to the San Diego Loyal player.
This allegation prompted the San Diego Loyal players to walk off the pitch at the start of the second half in protest. Despite their comfortable 3-1 lead at their home Torero Stadium, the San Diego Loyal side controversially forfeited the game.
Martin, an openly gay player, released a statement, that read: “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.”
Former Tivoli Gardens ace Flemmings has categorically denied the accusations directed at him, yet his club have decided to put the 24-year-old and head coach Rick Schantz on leave pending investigations.
Flemmings was swift to go onto the social media platform of Twitter to deny the allegation, but he has since deleted his account. He originally tweeted: “At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin. I respect all of my opponents equally. I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement.”
His club hit back by releasing a statement that read: “Phoenix Rising FC is actively anti-homophobia and anti-racist and has a zero-tolerance policy for actions, which run contrary to these core values.”
A TV microphone picked up San Diego Loyal coach Landon Donovan stating just before half-time: “He called him gay. He called Collin gay. I can’t go through this s*** again. We’re off the field if he said that. F*** that!”
The two sides returned after the interval and Phoenix Rising FC kicked off the second half. The visitors played the ball back to their defensive line and were dismayed to witness the entire San Diego Loyal team walking off the pitch.
The club added in their statement: “Phoenix Rising FC is investigating the claim of a homophobic slur being used by one of its players, who has vehemently denied these allegations. Phoenix Rising stands with the USL in rejecting and punishing any homophobic behavior.”
Martin, whose red card was later rescinded, explained in his statement about his San Diego Loyal team: “Their collective decision to walk off the field in solidarity and forfeit the match speaks volumes of their support for me and what this organization 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 the game.”
Should Flemmings, who has made 10 appearances for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz since 2017, be deemed guilty of this allegation then his club career with Phoenix Rising FC will be terminated. His future involvement with the Boyz would then be at the discretion of both head coach Theodore Whitmore and the Jamaican Football Federation, despite having bagged 14 goals in as many club games in the USL.
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