Jamaican star football player Junior Flemmings of Phoenix Rising has been slapped a six-match ban after uttering a homophobic insult at San Diego Loyal’s Collin Martin.
The incident occurred at a USL Championship match last month, which prompted the San Diego team to walk off the pitch in protest. The referee had mistakenly sent Martin off, apparently thinking he was the abuser as he reported Flemming’s comments to the officials.
A heated discussion between head coach Landon Donovan, opposite number Rick Schantz and the referee followed. San Diego returned to the pitch after half-time but only to take a knee before walking off again.
Following an investigation, Flemmings was found to have directed “foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur” at Martin, who is the only openly gay player in football in the United States.
Flemmings issued a statement on social media denying the abuse, but Rising placed him on administrative leave.
Last week, the league confirmed the punishment: stating that : “The USL Championship announced on Tuesday, following an investigation that included interviews with 11 individuals, including players, coaches and match officials, that it has issued a six-game suspension and undisclosed fine to Phoenix Rising FC’s Junior Flemmings for the use of foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur during the club’s match against San Diego Loyal SC on September 30.
“Per the player’s contract, Flemmings could also be subject to additional discipline from Phoenix Rising FC and remains on administrative leave. Flemmings’ suspension covers the entirety of the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs.”
The Jamaica Football Federation later issued a statement on the matter, condemning the use of abusive language.
“The JFF would like to make it clear that we abhor foul, abusive or discriminatory language. We are indeed disappointed and we impress upon our players both locally and internationally, to be mindful of their expressions within and without a game,” the statement read.
“Every player should use this incident as a teachable moment while they maintain professionalism even under pressure or provocation. We truly hope that Flemmings will quickly pick up the pieces and maintain the great scoring form if and when he is called to the national team,” it added.
The 24-year-old star football player has had a stellar career thus far since his high school days in Jamaica. During his time at Jamaica College, he was captain of the 2013 Manning Cup and Oliver Shield winning football teams. He also played for Tivoli Gardens F.C. and the Reggae Boyz Under 17 during that time.
He later joined Jamaica’s Under 20 team and then a year later, in 2016, he signed with New York Red Bulls II of the United Soccer League.
In 2017, Flemmings made his senior international debut for the Reggae Boyz in the 2017 Caribbean Cup. A year later, he moved to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USL before settling with his current team in 2019.