SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Loyal forfeited a United Soccer League match Wednesday night in protest against an anti-gay slur apparently hurled at one of its players.
The comment toward Collin Martin, who is openly gay, was said to be made near the end of the first half of the match against Phoenix Rising at Torero Stadium.
Martin’s teammates were seen rallying around him as they walked off the field at halftime.
Martin is a former member of Minnesota United and came out in June 2018. At the time, he was the only openly gay player in the major men's professional sports leagues in the United States.
“I never thought that was completely important because I thought it’d been done before,” Martin said in an interview with the Star Tribune that summer. “But, I mean, you look around, there’s still not an out professional athlete in the five major sports in America … right now. So it’s still important.”
When they came back out for the second half, Loyal’s players and coaches took a knee and then walked off, thereby forfeiting the match. Loyal was winning 3-1 at the time.
“SD Loyal forfeited the match in support of Martin and the diversity that the club stands for within its community,” the club said.
Landon Donovan, who owns and coaches the San Diego team , could be seen in a heated confrontation with Phoenix head coach Rick Schlantz over how to proceed before joining his players in the walk-off.
Yahoo Sports reported: "The conversation is hard to make out, but Donovan seems to say 'We have to get this out of our game ... it’s homophobia.' "
Loyal said in a statement that players and coaches heard the slur, but the match referees did nothing about it.
Phoenix midfielder Junior Flemmings issued a statement via social media denying he said anything offensive.
Loyal forfeited its previous match — a 1-1 draw against LA Galaxy II — after player Elijah Martin was the victim of a racial slur by an opponent in the second half.
“SD Loyal finishes its first season in the USL Championship with consecutive forfeits,” the club said, “making a strong message that it will not stand for such behavior.”
A midfielder, Martin is a seven-year Major League Soccer veteran who played in 26 matches for Minnesota United from 2017 to 2019 after four seasons with D.C. United. The United Soccer League, where he currently plays, is a second dvision league and considered to be the top minor league in United States soccer.