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Rising FC reinstates manager Rick Schantz from administrative leave

Phoenix Rising FC announced on Wednesday that the club has reinstated manager Rick Schantz from administrative leave.

The announcement comes following openly-gay San Diego Loyal SC player Collin Martin expressing his support after Schantz and Rising FC leadership reached out to him personally.

“Rick has apologized to me personally and I accept that apology as genuine,” Martin said in a statement. “We all come to our education on issues at different times, and he is beginning to understand the pain and disappointment he caused his team, the fans and the LGBTQ community. I see no reason not to give him my blessing and an opportunity to prove that someone can change.

“The sooner Rick is back working with his team and our league, the sooner he can begin his role as an ally in advancing LGBTQ equality and acceptance in professional sports. His return is not the end of his personal growth, but rather the beginning, and he should use his position of influence now to help effect real understanding and change.”

Schantz was put on administrative leave by the club following his comments on Sept. 30 to San Diego manager Landon Donovan that seemed to avoid condemning the use of a homophobic slur used by a Phoenix player.

“I realize how damaging my actions were not only to Collin Martin, who I have personally apologized to, but also to my team, the league and the LGBTQ community,” Schantz said in a statement. “I should have immediately acknowledged and denounced any anti-gay language. I am disappointed in myself and I’m committed to becoming a better human on this issue in the future.

“I’m working with and listening to LGBTQ community and sports leaders to develop a personal growth plan, as well as team-wide inclusion programs, so I can become an active ally to the LGBTQ community. This is a long-term commitment that I take very seriously.”

Schantz missed three matches in his time away from the team, two of which were playoff fixtures.

And while the club hasn’t lost in any of the games the 2019 manager of the year has been absent for, PRFC has required extra time and penalties in its last two postseason contests, respectively.

“During his administrative leave, Rick has dedicated himself to listening to members of the LGBTQ community and learning about the difference between tolerance and acceptance,” Phoenix Rising governor Berke Bakay said in a statement.

“I have witnessed a sincere commitment in him to use this public platform as head coach of our club to amplify the importance of equality and inclusion in professional sports.”

On Tuesday, Phoenix announced that it gave up the rights to host the 2020 USL Championship Final should Rising advance past El Paso Locomotive FC in Saturday’s Western Conference Final at Casino Arizona Field.

PRFC voluntarily elected to do so out of respect for the LGBTQ community because hosting the Championship Final after receiving three points from San Diego’s forfeit due to the use of a homophobic slur used by a Phoenix player is not consistent with the club’s values, the team said.

The 2020 Championship Final will now be hosted by the winner of Saturday’s Eastern Conference Final between Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Saturday night’s Western Conference Final will be Phoenix Rising’s last home match of the 2020 campaign.