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Team's forfeit over alleged homophobic slur shows there's "something bigger at stake," coach Landon Donovan says

One of U.S. soccer's biggest former stars and the pro team he now coaches are taking a major stand against homophobia and racism in sports. Landon Donovan and his team, San Diego Loyal, forfeited a match and a chance at the playoffs this week.

They made the dramatic decision after a player on an opposing team allegedly directed a homophobic slur at a teammate, openly gay player Collin Martin.

"The player unfortunately was not removed from the match by the official or their team, and so our only course of action was to walk away," Donovan told CBS News correspondent and CBSN anchor Vladimir Duthiers.

The Loyal were winning 3-1 when they decided to leave.

"Our guys to their immense credit realized that there was something bigger at stake," Donovan said.

Just before halftime, Donovan spoke to the referee and opposing coach about the alleged incident.

"We have to get this out of our game," Donovan told them. 

When Phoenix coach Rick Schantz pushed back, saying the players were "competing," Donovan replied, "It's homophobia."

After the game, Schantz said, "In no way was I excusing any alleged homophobic behavior from my players."

But the player in question, Junior Flemmings, denied using any slur and said, "I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement." 

The alleged incident was the second time in a week that San Diego's players say they have faced discrimination on the field. Last Wednesday, an opposing player allegedly hurled the N-word at Elijah Martin, who is Black.

"I hope people remember that there is a human side to this. Yes it's become a public story, but this is a very real issue for Collin Martin, for Elijah Martin," Donovan said. "I am so damn proud of them for being who they are, being great young men and human beings, and standing up for what is right."

Collin Martin released a statement Thursday questioning why Flemmings allegedly used the slur. 

"I hope this can be another example that we have a long way to go in kicking hate out of our game," he said. 

The league is now investigating the incident.

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