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MLS won’t punish Taxi Fountas over alleged slur

Sportsnaut
Apr 20, 2022; USA; D.C. United Taxi Fountas poses for a 2022 MLS portrait. Mandatory Credit: MLS photos via USA TODAY Sports
Credit: USA TODAY NETWORK

Major League Soccer will not discipline D.C. United forward Taxi Fountas over his alleged use of racist language toward an opponent despite ruling that his version of the events was not credible.

The league announced Monday that it could not independently confirm that Fountas used a slur against Inter Miami defender Damion Lowe during a Sept. 18 game and thus couldn’t punish him.

Fountas was pulled from the Sept. 18 contest after defender Aime Mabika and his teammates supposedly heard what was said and made the allegation, with the Miami players telling the referee they would not continue to play if Fountas were to stay on. D.C. United manager Wayne Rooney subbed Fountas out of the game, and the team kept Fountas out of its last two matches of the season as MLS conducted an investigation.

The league stated that Fountas and D.C. United cooperated fully with the probe. Major League Soccer’s statement regarding its findings reads in part, “While the league investigation could not independently verify the allegation, MLS did not find credible Fountas’ claim, made during interviews conducted as part of this investigation, that he said nothing in that moment — discriminatory or otherwise.

“Video of the incident clearly shows Mabika suddenly reacting to something he believed he heard from Fountas. MLS was unable to confirm independently, through additional eyewitness accounts, video footage or audio recordings, what Fountas said in that moment, as has been the league’s long-standing practice in determining player discipline for these types of allegations.”

Fountas will be allowed to resume action in MLS at the start of next season.

D.C. United said in a statement,” The club appreciate and accept the findings of the league’s investigation, as well as the conclusion that the act in question could not be confirmed following several interviews that took place with individuals involved and nearby the incident, including those closest to the situation, as well as through an in-depth review of audio and video from multiple broadcast angles. Additionally, the club would like to acknowledge Taxi Fountas’ cooperation throughout the investigation.

“D.C. United are committed to continuing to do the work needed to uphold one of our club’s core values that racism has no home in our sport and we must be proactive in our efforts to create a place where all feel welcome and respected.”

Fountas, a 27-year-old Greece native, just completed his first season in MLS. He played 21 games for D.C. United, making 17 starts, and finished with a team-high 12 goals and three assists.

Mabika, a 24-year-old Zambia native, played in 15 games (13 starts) for Miami this year. He has no goals and one assist in parts of two MLS seasons.

MLS also announced the result of its investigation into the hiring of Rooney on July 12, fining the team $25,000 for failing to follow the rules spelled out in the league’s Diversity Hiring Policy. Teams are required to have at least two candidates from underrepresented groups in the finalist pool for coaching hires, including at least one Black candidate.

According to MLS, D.C. United spoke with two candidates from underrepresented groups, but only one of those was actually in the finalist pool.

–Field Level Media