New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir apologizes for using racial slur in anti-earthquake draw


Major League Soccer is still investigating the incident that nearly resulted in the Earthquakes leaving the field on Saturday night. Dante Vanzeir apologized on Monday night. (Rich Grässle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Red Bulls and forward Dante Vanzeir issued an apology Monday after Vanzeir used a racial slur during their game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.

Earthquakes forward Jeremy Ebobisse said after Saturday night’s 1-1 draw in New Jersey that an unnamed Red Bulls player used a racial slur in the second half of his game – causing, and almost causing, a lengthy delay would have had the Earthquakes walk off altogether. Ebobisse said they stayed in the game because the insults weren’t aimed at anyone in particular. Major League Soccer quickly launched an investigation.

On Monday, the Red Bulls and Vanzeir issued statements apologizing. While it’s still unclear what he said, Vanzier admitted to using inappropriate language during the game.

“I sincerely apologize to the Earthquakes players,” he said in a statement. “I will do whatever it takes to be part of the change that needs to happen in this sport and in our world. I would also like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the organization and our fans. I made a mistake and will take whatever steps are necessary to grow.

“I take full responsibility for my actions. While I had no intention of causing harm or offense with my language, I know I did and I’m truly sorry.”

The Red Bulls issued an organization-style apology, saying that “the words and inaction were inexcusable and we believe there is never room for that.” Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber said he should have taken Vanzeir out of the game.

“During our game on Saturday, I made a decision that I thought was for the best given the information I had at that moment,” Sruber said in a statement. “Although there was a lot of uncertainty at the time, with the information I have now it would have been the right decision to take Dante Vanzeir out of the game immediately.”

The incident in question happened on Saturday in the 54th minute of the game. The result was 21 minutes of stoppage time.

Ebobisse, a 26-year-old from Cameroon, spoke about the incident after the game.

“It is important that we dig up all the facts. I want to be as open as possible here,” said Ebobisse. “There’s a lot of uncertainty here, I want to respect what hopefully will be a solid investigation. A difficult situation. I’m grateful to be with my teammates… Whether or not that’s a good faith comment, we’ll see as the investigation continues. But a difficult moment where players have taken command and have to deal with all sorts of emotions because the system is not robust enough.

MLS is still investigating the incident, which both clubs and Vanzeir have supported. It is unclear when that will be completed. Vanzeir, a 24-year-old Belgian, said he would accept any penalty from the Red Bulls and the league.

Vanzeir has scored in six appearances for the Red Bulls, who are 1-4-2, this season. Ebobisse has scored twice for the Earthquakes, who hold a 3-2-2 record.

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