Today Major League Soccer suspended Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark for three games and fined him an undisclosed amount for shouting an anti-gay slur at a ball boy during Friday night's game against the Seattle Sounders. (The Sounders produced an It Gets Better video last year, in collaboration with MLB's Seattle Mariners, NFL's Seattle Seahawks, and WNBA's Seattle Storm)
"Major League Soccer will not tolerate this type of behavior from its players or staff at any time, under any circumstances," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "Colin Clark has expressed sincere remorse for his actions and I believe that he will learn from this incident."
Commissioner Garber also announced in a statement that Clark will attend diversity and sensitivity training. This is in addition to the training that all MLS clubs attend at the beginning of each season. The Houston Dynamo also released a statement about the incident.
“Colin Clark made a regrettable and inexcusable mistake for which he is being disciplined. We accept and support the punishment that has been laid out by MLS and look forward to moving beyond it. We know that this incident is not a true representation of Colin’s character or beliefs and that he is remorseful for what happened. He has a strong record of being a community leader and expect that he will use this as a learning and teaching opportunity in the future.”
That statement included another apology from Clark himself, who had already apologized via twitter.
“I am sorry about what happened during the Seattle match,” Clark said. “I have personally apologized to the ball boy, and I want to take this chance to say I’m sorry to everyone that I’ve offended. I intend to never use those words again in any context. There is no excuse for them. What I said does not properly represent who I am or what I believe. I made a mistake that I truly regret. I accept the punishment that has been handed down by MLS, and I want to learn from this incident and move forward.”
This action by MLS, and the corresponding statements from the Dynamo and Clark add up to one of the strongest statements against the use of anti-LGBT slurs we've seen in the sports world. Clark is believed to be the first major American pro athlete to be suspended for anti-gay actions since John Rocker more than a decade ago. (Rocker's tirade also targeted other groups as well.) GLAAD has been in contact with Major League Soccer and we are hopeful that we can soon add them to the growing list of leagues, teams and individuals who are working with us to create a sports landscape more inclusive and supportive of its LGBT fans and participants.