Phoenix Rising FC head coach, Rick Schantz, has been reinstated after sitting out three games on administrative leave over the controversy arising from Jamaican Junior Flemmings homophobic slur at an openly gay player in the United Soccer League.
Flemmings was accused of abusing San Diego Loyal defender Collin Martin in a game three weeks ago and when Schantz backed his player and refused to pull him from the contest, Loyal abandoned the game in protest at half-time.
Schantz was subsequently sent on leave while the matter was investigated, with Flemmings eventually found guilty of using “foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur”, and slapped with a six-match ban.
“During his administrative leave, Rick has dedicated himself to listening to members of the LGBTQ community and learning about the difference between tolerance and acceptance,” said Phoenix Rising FC Governor Berke Bakay.
“I have witnessed a sincere commitment in him to use this public platform as head coach of our club to amplify the importance of equality and inclusion in professional sports.”
The reinstatement came about after Schantz issued Martin with an apology and pledged to continue his self-education on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community in sport.
“Rick has apologized to me personally and I accept that apology as genuine,” Martin said in a statement.
“We all come to our education on issues at different times, and he is beginning to understand the pain and disappointment he caused his team, the fans and the LGBTQ community.
“The sooner Rick is back working with his team and our league, the sooner he can begin his role as an ally in advancing LGBTQ equality and acceptance in professional sports.”
Flemmings’s ban came as a massive blow for Phoenix as the 24-year-old is the league’s leading scorer with 14 goals this season.
The suspension ruled him out of the entire playoffs and Phoenix said he could also face additional fines for his indiscipline.
Despite his absence, Phoenix has been good enough to reach the western conference final where they face El Paso Locomotive at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Jamaica Football Federation also condemned Flemmings’s actions, saying in a statement it “abhorred foul, abusive or discriminatory language”.