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Rising FC names Blair Gavin interim manager; Flemmings out vs. LA

Phoenix Rising FC manager Rick Schantz (right) and assistant coach Blair Gavin (left). (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

Phoenix Rising FC has named assistant coach Blair Gavin as interim manager, GM Bobby Dulle told 98.7 FM’s Arizona Sports Saturday.

Gavin will be replacing manager Rick Schantz, who took administrative leave on Thursday night following Wednesday night’s match in San Diego in which PRFC’s Junior Flemmings allegedly called openly-gay Loyal SC player Collin Martin a Jamaican gay slur.

Flemmings — who vehemently denies all allegations — also took administrative leave on Thursday night in order to cooperate with USL’s investigation.

“For right now those are two separate — that’s an internal situation with Rick Schantz, he’s been placed on administrative leave indefinitely,” Dulle said. “Rick understands that he made a mistake. He certainly has shown remorse. The onfield events could not be more contrary to the values of our organization.

“So he needs to take some time away from the team right now to gain an understanding of not only the LGBTQ+ community, but he just needs to learn and I think that’s an important component. He’s committed to take the necessary steps and get out there and learn and educate and be better and be a leader and a force for change. And we’re committed as an organization to support him and what he needs through this process.”

Dulle added that he doesn’t expect to see any punishment handed to Schantz on behalf of the league after he refused San Diego manager Landon Donovan’s ultimatum of subbing Flemmings off the pitch or Loyal SC would forfeit and walk off the field.

“Ultimately, while Rick, I think, was trying to defend the player and got caught up in the moment, he needs to understand the bigger issue,” Dulle said. “And ultimately with time — he realizes a mistake was made — he’s going to work toward that and we’re going to support him through that.

“And he’s going to be placed on leave at this point in order to make sure that if those moments arise on the field, off the field, that he’s representing himself and the organization in the values and the mission that we’ve established and we’ve been about and will continue to be about as we move forward.”

Flemmings will also be absent from Saturday night’s Matchday 18, as the Jamaican continues to cooperate with the league’s investigation.

“We don’t anticipate receiving those findings until early next week,” Dulle said. “Whatever is the conclusion and the recommendation and the results of those findings from the league, we will certainly accept.”

The Jamaican’s regular season will come to an end with 14 goals in 15 matches to lead USL Championship’s Golden Boot race and put his name in the hat for the 2020 MVP.

“There’s an ongoing investigation where we’re sensitive to all parties involved,” Dulle said. “It would be unfair to members in the Loyal organization as well as unfair to the members of our organization and the United Soccer League who is working diligently to get to the bottom of it and ultimately come up with a decision.

“We expect and honor the process. We’re going to let the process play out. I think that’s very important that everyone has an opportunity to speak and all parties are made aware of what took place and ultimately, a decision will be made and we will be comfortable with that.”

Following the announcement of Gavin being named interim manager, both Phoenix and San Diego released a joint statement:

“To help foster a greater sense of understanding and empathy towards one another, as well as to bring awareness to the realities of conscious and unconscious biases, the clubs have committed to working together towards the development of educational programs where players, staff and supporters will meet to share their backgrounds and life experiences,” the statement read.

Loyal SC also released a statement asking “those that support our stand to please be respectful with Junior Flemmings, Rick Schantz and the entire Phoenix organization.”

Phoenix Rising hosts host LA Galaxy II at Casino Arizona Field on Saturday night in the regular-season finale.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be audio broadcasted live on and on the new Arizona Sports app.