Recently, a Concrete article was produced on the brave display of solidarity shown by San Diego Loyal SC, when they walked off and forfeited a game in protest against a homophobic comment made against their midfielder, Collin Martin, by a member of the opposition.
Since then, the accused player, Junior Flemmings – a forward for Phoenix Rising FC – was banned for six games by the United Soccer League. Flemmings has denied the claims on Twitter.
In addition, Phoenix have asked to be allowed to give up their hosting rights for the Championship final, should they reach it, in a gesture towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Granted, these appear steps in the right direction. However, it seems quite frankly unacceptable that, with the investigation into the incident now complete, San Diego’s forfeit of the game still stands. What sort of message does that send to young fans?
Yes, Flemmings will not be available for Phoenix’s future fixtures and may face retrospective punishment from the club also, but Phoenix’s season continues, whereas San Diego – who were winning the game at the time – have had their campaign brought to an abrupt halt.
Manager Landon Donovan talked of the guilt Martin subsequently felt when he knew of the ramifications the protest would have on San Diego’s season.
Guilt. Felt by the player who was abused.
The footballing environment is not welcoming enough to the LGBTQ+ community, which is clear through how few players currently playing have openly come out as gay. When incidents like these are identified, more action must be taken to show that they will no longer be tolerated in the modern game. This is vital in order for us to progress to becoming a more inclusive society as a whole.
This extends beyond homophobia. In 2011, Luis Suarez received an 8-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. 2 years later he received a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic. Surely these punishments are not proportional to the infringements committed.
Governing bodies for far too long have treated incidents of racism and homophobia much like they treat diving, fouling and other minor mid-game indiscretions. This has to stop.
Fans will be issued lifetime bans for similar incidents.
For years, football has been searching for ways to expand the opportunities present for minority groups within the game. However, at the same time, those high up the footballing food chain have been complacent by not holding the players we idolise to the same moral standards as everyone else.
It is these individuals that young generations will look up to and if we do not ensure that they are leading by example, future football fans and players may also be led astray.
Social media has been awash with support for Donovan, Martin and the other Loyal’s players. It is time that football’s governing bodies stood up and showed their support too.