MLS can’t verify Taxi Fountas used slur; calls allegation ‘credible’

Suspension

The DC United Taxi Fountas star will not face MLS disciplinary action after a league investigation found there was no conclusive evidence that he made racial slur against an opponent during the Sept. 18 game at Audi Stadium.

The league said on Monday that Miami defender Emi Mabeka’s allegations were “credible” but that it could not “independently verify” them. MLS also said it did not find Fontas’s claim that he said nothing at that moment – discriminatory or otherwise. The video of the accident clearly shows Mabeka suddenly reacting to something he thinks he heard from Fontas.”

As part of the investigation, the association said, it interviewed several people and reviewed videos and audio recordings, but was unable to determine “what Fontas said at that moment”.

Mabeka Fontas was accused of using the n-word during an incident with Damion Lowe in the second half. Lowe, who is Jamaican, and Mabeka, who is Zambian, are black. Fountas, which is Greek, is white.

Miami refused to resume play unless Fontas was removed from the game. United coach Wayne Rooney is obligated to do so.

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“I didn’t use the word I’m accused of using,” Fontas wrote in an Instagram post a day later. “This despicable racial slur is one of the things I condemn and do not use. We had a heated discussion in the field. But I did not racially assault anyone. I strongly reject racism in any form. It is despicable.”

Referee Ismail Al-Fateh told a reporter at Al-Masbah at the time that no official had heard racist or offensive language and that nothing was discovered by reviewing the video.

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As previously scheduled, Fontas then traveled to Greece to play twice for his country’s national team. He was due to return to the United States for the last two MLS games of the season, but due to the stress of the situation on Fontas and his family, Rooney granted him additional leave.

Fountas, United’s only All-Star selection, is under contract until the 2024 season. This year, he has scored 12 team goals and added three assists in 21 games.

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In a statement, United officials said they “appreciate and accept the findings of the league’s investigation, as well as the conclusion that the act in question cannot be confirmed following multiple interviews conducted with individuals involved and in close proximity to the incident.”

People familiar with the investigation said MLS has interviewed Fountas at least twice, and contacted player Christian Benteke and Raphael Morrison, who are both black. Both were in the field at the time of the accident. Several Miami players have also been interviewed.

Fountas was not available for comment on Monday, but the person who spoke to him said the player was “relaxed and excited to be back”. Miami officials did not immediately comment.

MLS said it would re-examine its policies and practices regarding allegations of abusive and discriminatory language.

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In a separate investigation, MLS announced it had fined United $25,000 for violating the league’s diversity recruitment policy before the club appointed Rooney in July. The first offense necessitated a fine of up to $50,000.

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As part of updated guidelines put in place in December, teams are required to interview at least two candidates from underrepresented groups, including one black candidate, for positions on technical staff, such as coach and general manager. (Previous rules dictated one candidate from these groups.)

Starting with a roster of at least five nominees, United spoke with a black coach and a Latino – both from outside, one person close to the situation said – but one of those conversations “couldn’t be considered a ‘final group’ interview,” the league said.

United said in a statement that one of the candidates had gone through the same process as the others. However, he added the club, then told team officials he would not be interested in a job that started mid-season.

“On learning of this, the club has focused its attention on the remaining finalists,” United said.

However, the league said United “remained obligated to bring an additional candidate from an under-represented group to its ‘finalist pool’ or request a waiver from MLS detailing extenuating circumstances that would not allow them to do so”.



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