MLS will investigate allegations that DC United’s Taxi Fountas uttered the N-word to Inter Miami players


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 claimed on Sunday that DC United forward Taxi Fountas used racial slurs on one of their players during an MLS game between the two teams.

The incident came in the second half of a 3-2 win in Miami and resulted in a five-minute stoppage of play while referee Ismail Elfath initiated MLS protocol over 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 defense attorney DeAndre Yedlin said that Fountas called him “the N-word” after a confrontation between Fountas and Miami defense attorney Damion Lowe. (Fountas, a Greek star who joined DC United earlier this year, is white. Lowe, a Jamaican, is black.)

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

DC United manager Wayne Rooney, who pulled Fountas out of the game almost immediately after the incident, said: “There was a complaint which I will certainly look into. I can’t say much more.”

The incident between Taxi Fountas and Damion Lowe

The first confrontation between the two players occurred late in the 59th minute. Fountas challenged Lowe for the ball when Lowe passed back to his own goalkeeper. After releasing the ball, Lowe appeared to raise his elbow. Fountas then poked Lowe in the chest and the two went chest to chest and forehead to forehead for a few seconds, presumably exchanging words.

A few seconds later, Elfath interrupted the game. He spoke to Lowe, then to the captains of the two teams. He jogged to the sidelines to speak to Rooney and Neville and appeared to explain that there had been an allegation of racism and that he was following appropriate protocols.

Elfath then jogged back to the field and gave Fountas and Lowe yellow cards for the original altercation. After a brief discussion, Elfath called for the ball and prepared to restart play. A few seconds later TV cameras flashed back at Fountas and Lowe, at which point Lowe was half restrained, half comforted by a teammate and pointed at Fountas.

A few seconds later, Lowe appeared to be explaining to other DC United players that Fountas had called him an “N*****”.

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

“[Mabika] is one of the nicest guys. So when you see the way he’s reacting like that, you know it’s probably something pretty serious,” 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 later told Yedlin that “you could tell his behavior was embarrassing. You know, head down, backing away a little bit. He tried to stretch out his hand, but [Mabika] said, ‘I won’t shake your hand after that.'”

(The ESPN+ broadcast didn’t capture the portion of the incident when the insult allegedly occurred, nor much of the audio on the field.)

Yedlin, Neville: Miami was ready to give up

Yedlin and other Miami players had meanwhile come to the sidelines. Yedlin said after the game that he, his teammates and Neville decided not to play the rest of the game “until something was done with that player, and if nothing was done then we wouldn’t go ahead.”

Neville indicated that he was willing to accept a waiver. “I would have given up the result to take a stand,” he said.

Neville and Rooney, former team-mates at Manchester United in England, spoke to each other several times during the minute-long hiatus. Elfath eventually jogged back to the sidelines and huddled with the two coaches. Lowe walked to the sidelines while chatting with DC United’s Ravel Morrison and Christian Benteke, both also black.

Play eventually 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 pair returned to their respective benches.

Less than a minute later, Rooney sent a sub for Fountas and wrapped his arm around Fountas as the 27-year-old All-Star left the field. Neville later said he had “massive respect” for Rooney and that Rooney “scored more than any goal he’s ever scored” on Sunday night.

Yedlin’s interpretation was that after Neville and Rooney had spoken, “they decided to undress the player”.

A DC United spokesman said in a statement two and a half hours after the game that the club were “aware of the allegations made against 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 with an injury-time goal from Gonzalo Higuain. However, Yedlin said: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t even feel like a win because of this incredibly dark moment.

“It will be very interesting to see how the league responds,” said Yedlin. “And we will see how seriously they take this issue. We have many campaigns, we can wear t-shirts, we can have signs and say ‘no to racism’ and all that, but at the end of the day, it keeps happening. So, when will a position really be taken? [One] that really kind of says – excuse my language – ‘no cops***’.”

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