The United States Soccer Federation issued a statement on Friday regarding an alleged “racial epithet” used in the cup quarterfinal between LAFC and Portland Timbers. Here’s the full statement:
The U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel has conducted a hearing and reviewed evidence concerning alleged use of a racial epithet directed at LAFC player Adama Diomande by a Portland Timbers player during the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal match on July 18, 2018, in Los Angeles.
The Panel found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that a racial epithet was used but as a matter of principle, the Panel condemned all forms of racial abuse, stating the use of a racial epithet has no place on or off the soccer field.
“U.S. Soccer bylaws expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, among other protected characteristics, and the FIFA Code of Ethics provides in relevant part that players shall not ‘offend the dignity or integrity of a … person … through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions on account of race, skin colour, ethnicity.’”
As part of the review, the Panel heard from all players involved. It should be clearly noted that the accused player strongly denies using a racial epithet. The panel also reviewed the match official’s report, along with written statements and video evidence provided by the clubs. After reviewing all of the available information, the Panel found no other individual that was able to confirm they heard the alleged use of the racial epithet.
While in no way diminishing the serious allegation, the Panel also took into consideration that the alleged incident occurred while multiple speakers spoke at the same time in multiple languages during a tense situation, which could allow one individual to misunderstand another individual.
In their written decision, the U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel explained:
“…this is a case of a dispute over what was said between players on the playing field, amidst noise, confusion and multiple speakers speaking at once and in at least two languages. The match official did not hear the statement in question and did not issue a caution based on the incident, nor did any other player in the vicinity come forward to confirm they heard the alleged statement…Given the possibility that it is always possible to mishear or misunderstand another individual in a tense situation, the Panel concluded it does not have a basis to value the credibility of one player over another in this matter.”
In short, USSF says there’s insufficient evidence. This should be the end of the story, but it seems the Portland Timbers ruffled some feathers with their statement on Thursday. Here’s their statement
LAFC, the side that won that match, responded with their statement on Friday. It reads as follows:
During the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal match on July 18 in Los Angeles, there was an on-field incident involving a Portland Timbers player allegedly calling LAFC forward Adama Diomande a racial slur.
We respect the U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel process and their thorough investigation. LAFC accepts U.S. Soccer’s finding that the matter was inconclusive based on insufficient evidence and did not have a basis to value the credibility of one player over another in this matter.
We are disappointed that the Portland Timbers issued a statement that was dismissive of our player and the investigation by concluding it “simply did not happen”. We stand by Adama Diomande and his courageous public statement.
LAFC remain committed to creating a safe, positive, welcoming and inclusive environment for all players and fans at Banc of California Stadium. This is what our Club stands for as we continue to work to Unite the World’s City Through the World’s Game.
This all comes after Portland filed a protest regarding LAFC’s use of international players, which they eventually withdrew. In the end, neither team will be playing for the Cup. LAFC reached the Semifinals before losing in penalty kicks to Houston.