DC United’s Greek striker Taxi Fountas has denied using a racial slur towards Inter Miami’s Jamaican defender Damion Lowe during Sunday’s Major League Soccer (MLS) game.
MLS said it was investigating the alleged incident, which happened on the hour mark as Fountas, who had just scored for DC, got into an altercation with Lowe.
The situation escalated and Fountas and Lowe, who is black, were called off by the referee, before the Miami players huddled together and spoke to manager Phil Neville.
Neville then spoke to United manager Wayne Rooney, his former England team-mate, who opted to replace Fountas out of the game.
In his post-game press conference, Miami guard DeAndre Yedlin said he spoke to Neville and said the players were “not going to continue until something is done with this player and if nothing was done, we were not going to continue”.
“Damion and another player got into a bit of a fight, as Damion walked away the guy called him the N-word.”
In a statement posted to his Instagram account, Fountas said he “did not use the word I am accused of using.”
“This despicable racial slur is one that I denounce and have not used,” the statement read. “We had a heated discussion on the pitch, but I didn’t racially abuse anyone. I strongly reject racism in any form, it’s despicable.
“I have many friends from different cultures. I always respect everyone’s culture, religion and skin color, so I am very upset by this accusation and saddened to be falsely accused.
Referee Ismael Elfath’s report said Fountas and Lowe had both been shown yellow cards for ‘disrespecting the game’ and neither the officials or the video assistant referee (VAR) had heard of it. racist or abusive remarks.
“MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language and we take such allegations very seriously,” an MLS spokesperson said in a statement.
“An investigation into this matter will begin promptly. Further information will be provided at the end of this investigation.
After the match, Neville praised his players, the referee and Rooney for how they handled the situation.
“I have to commend my players for keeping calm, I have to commend the referee for a really difficult situation, he followed the protocols set out by MLS – and I have to give massive, massive respect to Wayne Rooney for having him. handled the way he did,” Neville told reporters.
“I always knew him as a class act, and today he rose in my estimation more than he ever did, more than any goal he ever scored. There was a racist comment that was unacceptable. A word has been used which, in my opinion, is unacceptable in society. I think that’s the worst word in the world.
“I called the players. I asked them if they were okay. I told them that we were going to stick together, to manage this. That it was unacceptable. There are no forms, there there is no place for racism, for me, in society, let alone on a football pitch.
In his post-match press conference, United manager Rooney said: “The referee came and spoke to me and Phil and there was a complaint which, I’m sure will be investigated. So there’s nothing more I can say.
In a statement, DC United said it was “aware of the allegations involving 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,” he added.