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Phoenix Rising forward Junior Flemmings suspended 6 games for slur

Phoenix Rising FC forward Junior Flemmings. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

The USL Championship has suspended Phoenix Rising FC’s Junior Flemmings for six games after an investigation found the forward used foul and abusive language in the form of a homophobic slur against San Diego Loyal SC on Sept. 30.

Flemmings has also been been fined an undisclosed amount.

“Phoenix Rising accepts and supports the results of this investigation,” said Phoenix Rising GM Bobby Dulle in a statement Tuesday. “These actions could not be more contrary to the core values of our organization, and we apologize to all who were affected.”

The suspension, which officially began this past Saturday against LA Galaxy II, will cover the entirety of the USL Championship Playoffs. Flemmings may also be subject to additional discipline from PRFC.

The suspension was brought to the table after Loyal’s Collin Martin accused Flemmings of using a homophobic slur before the halftime whistle during PRFC’s match on Sept. 30. An investigation ensued, as Flemmings denied the claim.

The forward will remain on administrative leave through the remainder of his existing contract, which ends Nov. 30. Flemmings led the league in the regular season for goals with 14. Per a USL source, Flemmings is “technically” still eligible for both the USL Championship Golden Boot and MVP.

Replacing Flemmings on the pitch is forward Santi Moar. PRFC takes on Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday in the USL Western Conference quarterfinals.

“We will use this as an opportunity to learn, grow and be a force for change, as we work towards eradicating bias from our sport and our community,” Dulle said.

The news of the suspension comes a day after Rising head coach Rick Schantz issued an apology for his reaction to the accusation Flemmings used the slur during the team’s match against Loyal.

“While [my actions dismissing the accusation were] not my intent or personal belief, upon reflection, I fully understand my comments were wrong,” Schantz said in a Twitter post Monday. “I also understand the justifiable anger and I apologize for the pain I’ve caused. I should have immediately acknowledged and denounced any anti-gay comments.

“Furthermore, my actions significantly damaged the public perception of Phoenix Rising FC, a club which has publicly and proudly supported LGBTQ causes and charities since its inception.”

Loyal’s Martin accepted the coach’s apology later Monday night.

“I’m working with LGBTQ community leaders to develop a personal growth plan that’ll include 1-on-1 counseling sessions with LGBTQ sports and community experts,” Schantz said.