The USL Championship Soccer League is back in action this week and the Phoenix Rising begin their season against the San Diego Loyal. Last fall, the last time the two teams faced each other, the Loyal left the field after an aspiring player allegedly used a homophobic bow against the Collin Martin des Loyal, the only active out player in America’s five major sports leagues.
These events may have made the team a favorite of the anti-LGBTQ people, but the rise isn’t for that and they made it clear online.
Related: The Republican governor is putting forward a bill requiring parental permission to speak about LGBTQ people
The Rising advertised their match against the Loyal in a tweet. Someone answered underneath and asked: “When is Pride night?”
The Rising Twitter account responded.
“We’ll let you know when we have a ** full night,” they said, “and we can honor you at halftime.”
We’ll let you know when we have a ** hole night and we can honor you at halftime.
– Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) April 30, 2021
The person who asked for a “Straight Pride” event didn’t take the response too kindly, claiming the team was in favor of “equality.” The internet didn’t have it, however.
Even the loyal ones stepped in and said that they “love” this energy from the uprising. Other soccer teams too.
– Sarah Kezele (@SarahKezele) April 30, 2021
I’ve never seen anyone who wants everyone to see their L so badly.
– Kristina. (@kristinachelsea) April 30, 2021
The team’s response made it clear that it no longer represents disregard for the LGBTQ community, which is almost 180 from where they stood six months earlier.
The team and the Major League Soccer (MLS) -related league hit the headlines in October when the Loyal left the field and forfeited their game against the insurrection.
The Loyal, who was trained by soccer champion Landon Donovan, was at the top 3-1 at the time. Rising top scorer Junior Flemmings was accused of using a derogatory Jamaican term and directed it to Martin, but the Rising came on his defense first.
They wouldn’t even acknowledge that Flemmings was using the term when Donovan referred to him. The Loyal stood behind Martin and after leaving the field at half time, the players returned, kneeling down and refusing to play.
The week before, the Loyal had also lost a match against the LA Galaxy after an opposing player used the n-word to refer to black teammate Elijah Martin.
The decision to lose both games played a crucial role for the Loyal who did not qualify for the playoffs.
“The team came into play tonight and needed a win to stay alive,” said Sportcaster Jack Croni. “The sacrifice they make in taking away their own points has made it so much more powerful.”
The promotion went to the championship finals, but was ultimately canceled because the opposing team’s players tested positive for COVID-19. This made the Rising the league co-champion as the Western Conference champion.
Thereafter, Flemmings was fined and suspended six games, as was Rising head coach Rick Schantz. After that, the team put Flemmings on administrative leave for the rest of the season until his contract expired. He now plays for the Birmingham Legion.
The two teams then made a joint effort “to work towards the elimination of racist and homophobic language in professional football,” and Schantz apologized on behalf of the team. Donovan, Martin, and the Loyal accepted. Both teams also participated in a Justice Restoration Program with Common Goal, which works with soccer stars and teams around the world to join a “collective force for social change”.
“Moving from tolerance to acceptance is a big step. And I want to go from acceptance to a real ally. But before that I know that I still have a lot to make up for, ”said Schantz to Outsports before their first game after the events.
The two teams will meet at halftime and carry a “Proud Forever” banner while the uprising will sign the UNITY pledge, a commitment made by One Community for organizations to maintain an environment of respect and inclusion . More than 3,300 Arizona companies and over 20,000 Arizonans have made the UNITY pledge, according to the One Community website.
The Rising and Loyal match will air at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.