San Diego Loyal boss Landon Donovan reflects on the price his team paid for taking a stand against homophobic abuse
San Diego Loyal manager Landon Donovan has explained why his team walked off in protest after a homophobic incident during a game.
Junior Flemmings of Phoenix Rising football club was last week handed a six-match ban and placed on administrative leave for using homophobic slurs against San Diego Loyal’s gay midfielder Collin Martin during their second-tier USL Championship game on September 30.
San Diego’s entire team had walked off the pitch in protest at the incident after the referee initially allowed the game to continue and failed to send off Flemmings.
Former US national player Landon Donovan, San Diego Loyal’s manager and co-owner, told Sky Sports News: “My first reaction was kind of like a father, I reacted so emotionally because I was so sick of seeing our players go through this.
“A lot of madness ensued, but I’m really proud of the stand that our team took. I thought it was really important. If you don’t eventually stand up to it, it’s going to keep happening.”
Donovan also underlined the collective sacrifice of his team in forfeiting a match they were winning, which could have seen them make the play-offs.
He said: “When the adrenaline is going and you are beating a very good team at half-time, everybody wants to play.
“It wasn’t just any game, it was our last game of the season, which, if we’d won, we would have likely made the play-offs.
“For us, it was so final in that moment that the season was over. We didn’t want it to end that way but I think everybody saw the bigger meaning in what we were doing.”
San Diego Loyal star Collin Martin felt ‘guilty’ after reporting homophobic incident.
Donovan said that after the incident, Martin “felt guilty that he said something, he felt guilty that we walked off the field, he felt guilty that our season was over”.
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He added: “We had to keep reminding him that he didn’t do anything wrong, he did the right thing by saying something. We are very adamant now that if you see or hear something, you need to speak up and you need to act.
“That’s what he did and that’s why, in my mind, he is a hero for what he did. We spoke over and over, in the days following and it was hard but I think he realises that it was a really powerful message to send.”
The manager has called on Flemmings, who plays for the Jamaican national team, to apologise to Martin, which so far he has failed to do.
“There are protocols for when there is abuse from crowds, but if there is abuse amongst the players and the players feel they want to walk off, they should. That’s a really powerful symbol.
“Landon Donovan has taken the genie out of the bottle now, once somebody has done that it won’t be long before someone else does the same if they’re in a similar circumstance.”