Major League Soccer on Wednesday disciplined Colin Clark, five days after the Houston Dynamo midfielder directed a homophobic slur at a Sounders ball boy during Seattle's 2-0 home victory on Friday night. Clark was suspended for three matches and fined an undisclosed amount by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
Clark: Fined, suspended for three matches.
"I am sorry about what happened during the Seattle match," Clark said. "I have personally apologized to the ball boy, and I want to take this chance to say I'm sorry to everyone that I've offended. I intend to never use those words again in any context. There is no excuse for them. What I said does not properly represent who I am or what I believe. I made a mistake that I truly regret. I accept the punishment that has been handed down by MLS, and I want to learn from this incident and move forward."
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Friday night's match at the Clink was one to forget for Houston, which fell 2-0 to Sounders FC, and especially for Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark, who picked a bad time and place to voice a homophobic slur--on NBC Sports Network's nationally televised broadcast, directed at a teenage Sounders ball boy, and close enough to a sideline microphone to be amplified and heard.
Seven minutes into the first half, Clark ran over to the sideline for a throw-in after the game ball had rolled out of bounds, and indicated he wanted a new ball tossed to him. When the the unidentified ball boy rolled the ball to Clark, forcing him to bend over and pick it up, he lashed out, yelling "Fuckin' faggot!" at the youth.
Major League Soccer should be credited for generally avoiding the embarrassing off-field incidents that plague other professional sports leagues, but this is the second time in a month that an anti-gay slur was used publicly by an MLS player--Lee Nguyen, then with Vancouver, described goalkeeper Brad Knighton as a "fagggggggg", then used "#butthurt" as a hashtag in a subsequent tweet. Nguyen, who claimed he was teasing his teammate, was released by the Whitecaps--he's now with New England--but the club claimed the Twitter incident was not a factor in letting him go. He was not disciplined by the league.
This is a more serious incident--it took place during a match, and the slur targeted a teenager who was there to help facilitate play. The league announced Saturday it is investigating the incident and examining the possibility of disciplinary action. The bottom line: There's no room in the sport for homophobia and intolerance, and soccer's demographic, younger and more diverse and progressive than that of other major sports, won't tolerate it.
Clark, 27, an eight-year MLS veteran who was named the Colorado Rapids' Humanitarian of the Year in 2009 for his volunteer work in Denver-area hospitals and schools, released the following statement Saturday via Twitter:
"I'd like to offer a sincere apology to everyone who watched the game, especially the ball boy for whom I used awful language towards. I didn't mean to disrespect anyone and am sorry for letting my emotions get the best of me. It's not who I am and it won't happen again."
He also tweeted the following statement to the website Gay4Soccer:
"I'm very sorry for my actions tonight and I would love for you to consider me a #soccerally moving forward."
The reference is to Gay4Soccer's Allies initiative, an attempt to get current and former MLS players, executives, media members and supporters' groups to sign on to a manifesto encouraging fair play and working to eliminate homophobia in the sport.
The Dynamo released the following statement on Saturday:
"We are aware of the incident involving Colin Clark during the Seattle match. Colin is very remorseful for his actions, which were inappropriate and do not represent his true character. He has issued a public apology and he will personally apologize to the ball boy. The League is reviewing the situation to determine disciplinary measures. Colin and the club will be fully cooperative in the process."
The most recent high-profile incidents involving homophobic slurs in pro sports took place last spring, when Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant shouted "Fucking faggot!" at referee Bennie Adams after being called for a technical foul in a game in April. Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA. A month later, the Bulls' Joakim Noah yelled "Fuck you, faggot!" at a fan heckling him during a playoff game in Miami. The league fined him $50,000.
Two Sounders players--Roger Levesque and Michael Fucito (since traded to Montreal) participated last year in a video supporting the "It Gets Better" Project, intended to combat bullying and offer hope to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, that also featured members of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Storm.
Two high-profile soccer players announced they were gay last year--Anton Hysén, the son of former Liverpool standout Glenn Hysén who plays professionally in Sweden, and former MLS midfielder David Testo, who spent two seasons with the Columbus Crew.