US: Major League Soccer player vows to use suspension for anti-gay slur ‘for the good’

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A Major League Soccer player in the US who was suspended for three games after using an anti-gay slur, has again expressed remorse, and said that he wants to use the opportunity of the media “for the good”, and to make amends for his actions.

Alan Gordon of the San Jose Earthquakes used the anti-gay slur against Will Johnson of the Portland Timbers, during a recent game, was suspended for three games and given an undisclosed fine.

Don Garber, Commissioner of MLS said Gordon used “unacceptable and offensive language” and went on to say thathe would be asked to attend diversity and sensitivity training.

Gordon apologised earlier this week, and now that he has been suspended, he expressed that he wanted to make amends.

“I’m going to use this for the good, that’s what I’ve decided to do,” he said, whilst attending training “People that know me, know what type of person I am. I will choose to use this in the best way I can… I will do several things to let people know that it was a mistake.”

While some have suggested that Gorgon’s response to the controversy caused by his comments was just a PR attempt at damage limitation, others have said that the way he has made himself accesible, and visible during the controversy could represent genuine remorse.

“I’m extremely disappointed in myself for that moment,” he continued. “It’s tough to swallow because I know that it was an ignorant moment for me. I’m smarter than that, and I have more self-control than that. But as a role model and as a father… this is why I do this, for the kids. That’s who I really feel bad for, along with the people I offended. I appreciate the sensitivity of the word. It’s shouldn’t be used.”

After being sent of in the 68th minute for elbowing another player in the face, a second yellow card for contact with another player, Gordon was escorted from the locker room by team personnel.

“I was frustrated about how the game was going,” he said. “[Johnson and I] were exchanging some words and I said the wrong thing. I made a mistake. That came from somewhere I didn’t even know was in me. I don’t use that language, and it came out. It was the worst possible timing on a big stage.”

Saying that he reached out to former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers, who came out shortly after retiring from professional football. The 25-year-old went public about his sexuality in a post on his personal website in February.

“I wanted to reach out to [Rogers] and make him know that my intentions were not to hurt,” said Gordon. “He fully understood. He made me feel a lot better. He just said, ‘I understand what happens in the heat of the moment, and I’m not taking it personal. And I know this doesn’t reflect [your] beliefs.’ He got it.

“The story just doesn’t stop. This is not the person I am. If you really want to know the person I am, come see me on a personal level and talk to me… I’m looking forward to this challenge of showing people who I really am. If they want to know, then they’ll see.”

“If they really want to know who I am, then stay tuned, this is not the end of it,” he continued.

Patrick Burke, president of the You Can Play project, which aims to tackle homophobia in sports through education and awareness, commented on the incident.

He said: “I think what you see [with Gordon] is the unfortunate consequence of years of bad habits,” he said via telephone. “For these guys, it’s a reflex most of the time, be it on the ice, on the field, on the court… whatever it might be. Something bad happens and that’s the word they go to. That’s a habit that we have to break. The only way you can do that is by telling them what that word really means to the people around them.”

“It’s always disappointing when these things happen,” Burke continued. “For the members of the LGBT community, it’s something that’s tremendously insulting and hurtful. There’s a lot of negative feelings that come with the use of that word.”

You Can Play has been recruited by the San Jose Earthquakes to speak at the club, and will be joined by a former MLS player David Testo, who came out just before retiring from the sport back in 2011.

The issue of coming out is particularly topical in US professional sports, and in the US there is currently no openly gay player in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League.

You Can Play’s co-founder Patrick Burke, an anti-homophobia in sports campaign group, visited the camp of the baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and spoke about the damaging effect of homophobic slurs.

The National Hockey League recently became the first major professional team sport in the US to announce a formal partnership with You Can Play.