MLS investigating allegations that DC United's Taxi Fountas called Inter Miami player the N-word

MLS investigating allegations that DC United’s Taxi Fountas called Inter Miami player the N-word

Inter Miami defender Damion Lowe (L) after the alleged incident involving Taxi Fountas (R). (Photo: Geoff Burke-USA Today Sports)

Inter Miami players and head coach Phil Neville alleged on Sunday that DC United forward Taxi Fountas directed a racial slur at one of his players during an MLS game between the two teams.

The incident occurred during the second half of a 3-2 Miami victory and prompted a five-minute stoppage in the game, during which referee Ismail Elfath initiated the MLS protocol for allegations of racial abuse on the field.

Neville said after the game that “a word was used that is unacceptable in society. It’s the worst word in the world.”

Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin said that, after a confrontation between Fountas and Miami defender Damion Lowe, Fountas “called him the N-word.” (Fountas, a Greek star who joined DC United earlier this year, is white. Lowe, a Jamaican, is black.)

Fountas, in a statement posted on Instagram Monday afternoon, denied using “the word I am accused of using” and denounced “that despicable racial slur.”

Elfath, in written answers to questions from pool reporter Pablo Maurer, said “no official heard any racist or abusive language.” An MLS spokeswoman told Yahoo Sports that a league investigation will begin immediately.

DC United coach Wayne Rooney, who pulled Fountas from the game almost immediately after the incident, said “there was a complaint, which I’m sure will be investigated. I can’t say much more.”

The Fountas-Damion Lowe Taxi Incident

The initial confrontation between the two players came late in the 59th minute. Fountas challenged Lowe for the ball as Lowe was passing it to his own goalkeeper. After releasing the ball, Lowe appeared to raise his elbow. Fountas then shoved Lowe in the chest, and the two stood chest to chest and face to face for a few seconds, presumably exchanging words.

A few seconds after that, Elfath stopped the game. He spoke with Lowe and then with the captains of the two teams. He ran to the sideline to talk to Rooney and Neville, appearing to explain that there had been an allegation of racism and that he was following proper protocol.

Elfath then ran back onto the field and issued yellow cards to Fountas and Lowe for the original altercation. After a brief discussion, Elfath called for the ball and got ready to restart the game. A few seconds later, the TV cameras cut back to Fountas and Lowe, at which point Lowe was being half-pinned, half-consoled by a teammate and taking aim at Fountas.

Seconds later, Lowe appeared to be explaining to other DC United players that Fountas had called him “n*****.”

Yedlin said after the game that Aimé Mabika, another Miami defender who is also black, also heard the insult and reacted emotionally.

“[Mabika] he’s one of the nicest guys out there, so when you see him react the way he did, you know it’s probably pretty serious stuff,” Yedlin said. “It’s something that hit him pretty hard. And as soon as I heard what he said, I got pretty emotional too.”

Yedlin also said that Mabika confronted Fountas and then told Yedlin that “you could tell there was shame in his behavior. You know, with his head down, sort of backing away a little bit. He tried to pull his hand away, but [Mabika] He said, ‘I won’t shake your hand after that.

Fountas, in his Monday denial, wrote: “We had a heated discussion on the field, but I have not racially abused anyone. I firmly reject racism in any form, it is despicable. I have many friends from many cultures. I always respect the culture, religion and the color of each person’s skin, therefore I am very upset by this accusation and saddened to be falsely accused.”

(The ESPN+ broadcast did not capture the portion of the incident when the insult allegedly occurred, nor much of the sound on the field.)

Yedlin, Neville: Miami was prepared to lose

Yedlin and other Miami players, meanwhile, had been sitting on the sidelines. Yedlin said after the game that he, his teammates and Neville had decided they would not play the rest of the game “until something was done with that player, and if nothing was done then we weren’t going to continue.”

Neville indicated that he was prepared to accept a confiscation. “He would have given up the outcome to resist,” he said.

Neville and Rooney, former teammates at England’s Manchester United, spoke several times during the stoppage. Elfath, at one point, trotted back to the sideline and huddled with the two trainers. Lowe walked to the sideline while chatting with DC United’s Ravel Morrison and Christian Benteke, who are also black.

Play finally resumed in the 65th minute, but only after Elfath spoke to Lowe with his arm around the player’s shoulder, and only after Neville patted Rooney on the cheek as the two walked back to their respective benches.

Less than a minute later, Rooney sent in a substitution for Fountas and put his arm around Fountas as the 27-year-old All-Star walked off the field. Neville later said that he had “great respect” for Rooney, and that on Sunday night, Rooney “made more than any goal he ever scored.”

Yedlin’s interpretation was that, after Neville and Rooney talked, they “decided to take the player off.”

A DC United spokesman said in a statement two and a half hours after the game that the club was “aware of allegations involving a player during the game against Inter Miami CF. The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter”. Miami to investigate the incident.”

Miami won the game on a stoppage-time goal by Gonzalo Higuaín. However, Yedlin said that “at the end of the day, it doesn’t even feel like a win because of that incredibly dark moment.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of stance the league takes on this,” Yedlin said. “And we’ll see how serious they are about this issue. We have a lot of campaigns, we can wear t-shirts, we can have signs and ‘say no to racism’ and all of that, but at the end of the day, it keeps happening. So at what point does it go? to make a real position? [One] that actually says, excuse my language, ‘no *** nonsense'”.

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