Soccer legend Landon Donovan has opened up about his emotional reaction that happened during his team The San Diego Loyal’s recent game.
The issue surrounding his incident revolved around Junior Flemmings, a member of The Phoenix Rising, who apparently made a homophobic slur towards Loyal star Collin Martin during the match. Martin came out publicly two years ago and is said to be the only active male professional soccer player to be openly gay.
Landon Donovan to Phoenix Rising coach Rick Schantz: "What do you mean this isn't a big deal? We have to get this out of our game."
— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) October 1, 2020
When Flemmings was not removed at the start of the 2nd half … Donovan’s Loyal team took a knee and then left the field. They were in a good position at that point to win as the Loyal’s led by 3-1.
“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,” Donovan said in an interview with Sky Sports News. “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 spoke on the collective sacrifice made by the team who could’ve made the playoffs had they stuck around and won against their opponents that evening.
“When the adrenaline is going and you are beating a very good team at halftime, everybody wants to play,” he said. “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 playoffs.”
“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.”
Donovan claimed that Martin “felt guilty that he said something, he felt guilty that we walked off the field, he felt guilty that our season was over,” after the incident took place.
“We had to keep reminding him that he didn’t do anything wrong, he did the right thing by saying something,” he added. “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 realizes that it was a really powerful message to send.”
Flemmings, meanwhile, is paying the price for what he allegedly said. The United Soccer League announced on October 6 that he’s suspended from the next six Phoenix Rising games and has been placed on administrative leave for the remainder of his contract, which is due to expire on November 30. He is likely to not be resigned. Flemmings also faces an undisclosed fine for the matter.