Around the 59th minute of the MLS game between DC United and Inter Miami on Sunday, United forward Taxi Fountas and Inter defender Damion Lowe got into a scuffle on the field. It happened just after Fountas scored a goal for United. The game was stopped for several minutes after Fountas was accused of using racial slurs against Lowe.
“There was a racist comment that was unacceptable,” said Inter Miami coach Phil Neville. “A word was used that I think is unacceptable in society. I think it’s the worst word in the world.”
Neville and United coach Wayne Rooney were called to talk to the referee, Ismail Elfath. The Inter Miami players threatened to walk off the field if nothing was done.
“We’re a football club that’s proud of our diversity and inclusion in our staff and our supporters,” said Neville. “And I think there’s no place at all for racism on a football field, in society.”
After some discussion, Rooney took Fountas off the field and subbed him out.
“I must commend my players for keeping their calm,” said Neville. “I must commend the referee for a really, really, really difficult situation. He followed the protocols set out by the MLS. And I must give massive, massive respect to Wayne Rooney for dealing with it in the way that he did.”
Rooney and Neville were teammates for Manchester United when they played for the Premier League club before becoming coaches in the MLS.
“I have always known him as a class act and today he went up in my estimation more than he has ever done, more than any goal he has ever scored,” said Neville.
The MLS is investigating the incident. The referee, Elfath, said that he did not actually hear a racial slur being used, nor did any of the other on-field officials. Fountas himself denies using any racial slurs. In a social media statement, he said he is “upset by this accusation and saddened to be falsely accused”.
DC United released a statement that said they are working closely with the MLS and Inter Miami to investigate the incident. MLS released a statement as well, saying they take the allegations very seriously and have “zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language”.