Last week Wednesday, it was alleged that Phoenix Rising FC player, Jamaican footballer Junior Flemmings, used a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin who is an openly gay player who plays for San Diego Loyal. In response, according to a Jamaica Gleaner article, the other San Diego Loyal players forfeited the match. Flemmings has since been given a six-match suspension by the USL Championship while he has been fined an undisclosed amount for “foul and abusive language”. He was placed on administrative leave by his club, with the club stating: “the team will provide Flemmings with the resources he needs to learn and grow from this, so that he may become a model for change in the sport”.
Flemmings has denied he used a homophobic slur. The player turned to Twitter to release an official statement after the game but has since deleted his account. According to TalkSport, an investigation was undertaken by interviewing 11 players, coaches and match officials.
Martin, the player who the slur was used against was quoted in TalkSport saying “I have heard homophobic language throughout my career and growing up but not to the point where it was directed at me like that. I felt personally attacked. I was emotional coming off the field not knowing what was going to happen. Not understanding why someone would say that to me.”
Did USL Overreact?
Absolutely not. There can be no place for discrimination on the football field or off. There have been very ignorant comments on social media saying the same energy isn’t given to racial abuse and that’s simply not true. Kiko Casilla, who was accused of racial abuse while representing Leeds United, was fined £60,000, ordered to attend face-to-face education and got an eight-match ban. John Terry was punished for racial abuse and stripped of the England captaincy while many others were accused of racially abusing players.
Even if that was the case, that shouldn’t mean that any form of discrimination can be tolerated. You can advocate for more to be done as it relates to racism without piggybacking off what is being done to squash homophobia in sports. It’s also no secret why there are a few openly gay footballers, they’re not comfortable being open. If they’re seeing people have sympathy for people who discriminate against other gay people, then I can see why they’d feel unsafe.
Slurs aren’t just words, they reinforce discriminatory attitudes that are very harmful to oppressed groups. Othering people make it seem okay to enact violence towards others and treat them as if they’re not people. There is no place for that in modern society.
According to a CNN article, there has been a “53% increase in reports of racial abuse and a 95% rise in reports of abuse based on sexual orientation” in English football. There is work to be done for BOTH homophobia and racism. Recently, Neymar Jr said he was racially abused but no punishment was meted out to the alleged abuser. In addition to that, homophobia aimed at Cristiano Ronaldo has also gone unpunished.
The bottom line is, if Flemmings did use that slur, the punishment was appropriate. Unfortunately, at this point, we won’t know what was said and an unbiased view on such a matter is necessary.
Making people uncomfortable and being discriminatory will never be okay. If punishment is not meted out to those who are discriminatory, then it would show that the league, team, and sport are okay with it. That’s an uncomfortable environment to be in for those targeted. Just because a member of one marginalized group committed the act doesn’t somehow make it okay. It’s very strange how people can see how being discriminated against for their race is bad but if someone is discriminated against for their sexual orientation, it’s not seen as the same. Try having some sympathy for other marginalized groups.