Major League Soccer says it will investigate claims that D.C. United player Taxi Fountas used a racial slur against an Inter Miami player during their teams’ match Sunday afternoon.
In the game’s 59th minute, Fountas battled with Miami defender Damion Lowe for control of the ball. Once Lowe had passed the ball away, Fountas clipped his ankle, causing the Miami player to react by raising his elbow.
Both players began shouting and pushing one another before Lowe — who is Jamaican — walked toward his penalty area. Inter Miami coach Phil Neville said during his postgame press conference Fountas used a “racist comment that is unacceptable” during the altercation.
Ugly incident tonight in Inter Miami game. DC’s Taxi Fountas allegedly used a racist word toward Miami’s Damion Lowe. This was the confrontation between the two players. Game was stopped for several minutes. Inter Miami coach Phil Neville said it was “unacceptable word.” pic.twitter.com/7gfSAMbKHe
— Will Manso (@WillManso) September 19, 2022
“As soon as I heard what he said, I got pretty emotional as well,” Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin said, adding that he and teammate Aimé Mabika spoke to Neville and was prepared not to continue playing “until something was done with that player.”
Following the confrontation, head referee Ismail Elfath stopped the game for a few minutes and spoke to both players. Elfath then spoke to both D.C. United head coach Wayne Rooney and Neville.
Three minutes after the alleged incident, Elfath gave both players yellow cards. Fountas was subbed out in the 66th minute for Miguel Berry.
Rooney said after the game Elfath told him that there was a complaint that “for sure will get investigated,” but could not comment further.
In a statement to WTOP, MLS said it takes all allegations very seriously and has “zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language.”
“An investigation into this matter will begin promptly. Further information will be provided upon completion of that investigation,” the league’s statement said.
A D.C. United spokesperson told WTOP that the club is aware of the allegations involving one of its players during the Inter Miami match.
“The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami to investigate the incident,” the spokesperson said.
Fountas did not talk to reporters postgame. Reporters were told his interpreter was not available. He responded with a statement on his Twitter account Monday morning, denying that he said a racial slur.
“That despicable racial slur is one I denounce and did not use,” the statement said. “We had a hot discussion on the field, but I have not racially abused anyone. I firmly reject racism in any form.”
— Taxiarchis Fountas (@T_Fountas) September 19, 2022
In response to the pool reporter’s questions, Elfath said that both Lowe and Fountas received yellow cards for “lack of respect of the game displayed during the original altercation” prior to the alleged racial incident.
“No official heard any racist or abusive language,” Elfath said. “The VAR and AVAR also did not hear any such language.”
In previous years, United has been very involved within the Black Players for Change, an independent organization featuring the league’s black players and coaches. Former D.C. United players Earl Edwards Jr. and Quincy Amarikwa joined the organization’s executive board when they were with the team, as did current goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Yedlin, who has spoken out on racism in and out of soccer, said his eyes would be focused on the league’s and D.C.’s response.
“It’s up to them to now take action and take a stand and show that this has no place in the game and no place in society,” he said.