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Phoenix Rising’s Schantz, Flemmings take leave amid USL investigation

(Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

Phoenix Rising FC announced Thursday night that forward Junior Flemmings and manager Rick Schantz will be taking administrative leave amid USL Championship’s investigation into the alleged use of a gay slur.

The team’s match against San Diego Loyal SC came to an end Wednesday after San Diego’s Collin Martin — an openly gay player — was allegedly called a homophobic slur by Flemmings.

The club announced Thursday that an investigation into the incident is fully underway, with Flemmings taking administrative leave to fully cooperate with the investigation until it’s concluded.

Schantz’s administrative leave, however, is unrelated to the investigation, according to the release.

Loyal SC manager Landon Donovan told Schantz Wednesday night to remove Flemmings or the team would leave the pitch and forfeit the game.

Donovan said after that Schantz refused to remove Flemmings from the game.

“I said OK, that’s fair. That’s your choice,” Donovan said. “And then our guys to their immense credit said we’re not going to stand for this.”

Flemmings denied the claims in a tweet.

“At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin,” Flemmings tweeted. ” I do not know Collin personally, but I respect all of my opponents equally, Collin included.”

In an interview with ABC 15, Schantz said he spoke to Flemmings, who denied uttering the homophobic slur.

“I work with this young man every day, I was in a serious quandary,” Schantz said. “I have one person yelling at me saying this is what happened and I have a player denying what happened. And I just chose to — I had to support my team and support our players.”

“If it comes out that he did say that or he said something disparaging, I think that’s reprehensible and I’m deeply sorry to the player, the fans and all those that are affected.”

San Diego’s decision to leave the pitch Wednesday comes a week after one of their players was called a racial slur by an LA Galaxy II player that has since been released.

The team after the match against Los Dos said they would not stand for racism or homophobia and that the team would walk off the pitch if it happened again.

San Diego walking off the pitch gave up a chance for the team to make playoffs in their inaugural season, as they needed a win and some help to qualify for a playoff spot.

“They were very clear in that moment that they were giving up all hopes of making the playoffs even though they were beating one of the best teams in the league handily,” Donovan said.

“But they said it doesn’t matter, there are things more important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in. So they made the decision to walk off.”

San Diego was beating Phoenix Rising 3-1 at the time of the forfeit.