USL club releases player for racist incident

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USL Championship side LA Galaxy II, the reserve team of the LA Galaxy, announced on Saturday that it had “mutually agreed to part ways” with defender Omar Ontiveros in the wake of an on-field racist incident involving the player.

The incident took place in the 71st minute of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw between LA Galaxy II and the San Diego Loyal. Ontiveros was found to have directed the N-word at the Loyal’s Elijah Martin following a clash in front of the Galaxy II’s bench. Some pushing on the part of Ontiveros ensued, for which he was cautioned. It was alleged that the Galaxy II staff and the referee heard Ontiveros’ use of the N-word, but did nothing to address it.

On Friday, following an investigation, the USL announced that it had issued a fine and six-game suspension to the 25-year-old defender. But then the Loyal took the unusual step of announcing that they were forfeiting the match and giving up the point.

“We don’t even want to recognize being a part of a match where these types of actions take place,” the Loyal’s chairman, Andrew Vassiliadis, said in a statement. “The Loyal in our name is symbolic of the diversity in our community and as a club we will not stand for this.”

The Loyal’s president, Warren Smith, added, “If there is anything we have learned during the last few months with all the racial injustice matters that have occurred, we have to take action that have consequences when these matters occur. I am proud of this organization, its ownership, staff and especially our players for wanting to take such action.”

On Saturday, Galaxy II issued a brief statement indicating that it had parted ways with Ontiveros. A Galaxy II spokesperson later gave ESPN are more detailed statement.

“After a thorough review of the incident that took place during the LA Galaxy II and San Diego Loyal match on Wednesday, Sept. 23, LA Galaxy II has mutually agreed to part ways with defender Omar Ontiveros,” the statement read. “LA Galaxy II stand with communities of color, and especially the Black community, in the fight against systemic racism, social inequality, bigotry and violence. Our club has no tolerance for racism or bigotry of any kind.”

In terms of the Loyal’s desire to forfeit the match, a USL spokesperson confirmed that while the league supports “the spirit of the gesture” by the Loyal, such action by a club is not something that can be done unilaterally, and that only the league can issue a forfeiture. The spokesperson added that the league’s Competition and Strategy committee — an internal working group made up of executives and technical staff members from around the league — will meet early in the upcoming week to make a decision. But the spokesperson said that among the issues the committee will have to weigh is whether a forfeiture would adversely affect other teams in the Group B standings “who didn’t do anything wrong.”

The incident in Wednesday’s match marks the second time in two seasons that a USL Championship player has had a contract terminated for an on-field instance of racial abuse. Last season, the Tulsa Roughnecks’ Fabian Bastidas had his contract terminated for racially abusing the Oklahoma City Energy’s Atiba Harris. After multiple meetings with Tulsa manager Michael Nsien, who is Black, Bastidas was subsequently re-signed by the Roughnecks ahead of the current season.