A minor league soccer game was reportedly halted on Wednesday after an apparent incident of bigotry.
US soccer legend Landon Donovan, now coaching the San Diego Loyal of the United Soccer League, walked off the pitch in protest along with his team after an openly gay Loyal player was apparently the target of a homophobic slur from a player on opposing Phoenix Rising FC.
In video clips posted on social media, Donovan can be heard pleading with the game officials and opposing coach.
"We need to get this out of our game!" Donovan said. "We need to get this out of our game!
The discussion occurred as the teams were retreating to their locker rooms for halftime. There appeared to be confusion among the officials over what transpired, with Donovan explaining that his players were unfairly penalized for responding to the provocation.
The Loyal players initially appeared to come out for the second half, taking a knee together briefly before leaving the field.
The walk-off resulted in a forfeit, with Phoenix winning 3-1. The Loyal later confirmed the gesture was done in protest.
The player who was allegedly attacked, Collin Martin, came out as gay in 2018, according to TMZ Sports. The Phoenix player, Junior Flemmings, used an anti-gay epithet most commonly used in his native Jamaican dialect, the report said.
Flemmings denied using the slur, and said he stands with the LGBTQ+ community.
A Loyal player was recently the target of a racial slur, Donovan said, further compounding his and the team's frustration.
The USL is considered the second-tier league to MLS, though many of the USL's roughly three-dozen teams are affiliated with or owned by MLS teams. Both San Diego and Phoenix are unaffiliated.
Phoenix was previously considered for promotion to MLS, but was passed up in 2019.
Donovan starred in three World Cups for the US, and played the bulk of his MLS career with the Los Angeles Galaxy.