Loyal praised for stance against hate language from opposing players

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Loyal say one of their players was the target of a slur during a game for the second week in a row, and the way the team reacted is receiving widespread praise.

Last week, the team vacated the result of its midweek matchup with the LA Galaxy II after learning one of the opposing players used the n-word in reference to Loyal defender Elijah Martin. Wednesday night, they say a player on Phoenix Rising used a homophobic slur. The way the team reacted to both slurs has inspired people around the world.

“Thanks for taking a stand against hate and intolerance! Best regards from Sweden!” said one Facebook commenter.

“Please accept my humble praise, respect and gratitude. You gained a fan in Denmark,” said another.

Drew Steck, president of the Locals, a 400-member fan group for the San Diego Loyal, said he’s never seen a coach do what Landon Donovan did Wednesday night.

“It’s almost awe inspiring,” Steck said. “To be in that position and be so convicted — this is what we are doing. There’s no other choices.”

It happened just before halftime in a game against Phoenix Rising. It was a game the Loyal needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Collin Martin, an openly gay player on the Loyal, said a player on the Rising hurled a homophobic slur at him. Donovan confronted the coach of the Rising, who appeared to say, “Don’t make a big scene.” Donovan replied, “We have to get this out of our game.”

The Loyal walking off the field in protest.

“This was the ultimate combination of being loyal to an idea and loyal to standing for more,” Steck said. 

Fernando Lopez with San Diego Pride praised the team’s stance.

“Homophobia is a real issue in athletic spaces, in particular professional sports. So, to see a soccer club stand up and support the LGBTQ community is a big deal,” Lopez told FOX 5.

Lopez said many athletes in the LGBTQ community leave professional sports and form their own clubs and leagues. San Diego has some of the biggest LGBTQ sports leagues in the country, he said. That’s why San Diego is one of jus five cities being considered to host the 2026 Gay Games, he said.

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