Landon Donovan, San Diego Loyal unite against racism and homophobia

Landon Donovan (Photo credit GUSTAVO BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images)
Landon Donovan (Photo credit GUSTAVO BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images) /

San Diego Loyal manager Landon Donovan made it clear they’ve had enough.

Enough is enough. Landon Donovan and the San Diego Loyal players sacrificed their chance at making the playoffs, deciding that it was more important to speak up and make a strong stand against racism and homophobia than ignore it and continue to play.

For the second week in a row now, San Diego Loyal players have been the targets of racist or homophobic slurs. On September 23rd in a match against the LA Galaxy II, Galaxy player Omar Ontiveros called San Diego player Elijah Martin the n-word. No disciplinary actions were made in the course of the game, however San Diego forfeited the game after the fact in protest, USL fined and suspended Ontiveros for 7 games, and ultimately the Galaxy released Ontiveros from their squad.

The latest incident occurred on September 30 when San Diego faced Phoenix Rising. Rising player Junior Flemmings allegedly used a homophobic slur against San Diego player Collin Martin who publicly came out as gay in 2018.

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There was no hesitation on the part of the San Diego staff and players who made it clear they wouldn’t stand for this kind of behavior. At halftime, Landon Donovan confronted the Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz giving him an ultimatum…he either subbed Flemmings out of the game or San Diego was done playing.

Schantz refused to make a move and San Diego proved they were not bluffing. They came back to the field for the start of the second half, took a knee, and walked off the field. They were winning 3-1 at the time.

Collin Martin took to social media to express what it meant to him to watch his teammates and coaches support him in that way.

The solidarity shown by the San Diego Loyal organization is inspiring. As Landon Donovan said in an interview following the game against Phoenix,

"There’s things more important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in."

I can’t tell you the number of times my own brother has been called the n-word on the field. And every time, he had to just keep playing. I was so moved by the actions of the San Diego organization because I would like to think that if my brother were ever to be the subject of a racial slur again, the same stand would be taken on his behalf.

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There are scrappy battles, hard-fought games, and gritty moments, but all that fight and determination can be accomplished without hate-filled insults. “We will speak. We will act.” is the motto of the San Diego Loyal organization. My hope is that other organizations will take a cue from San Diego and speak up and act as well.