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

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DC United star Taxi Fountas will not face MLS disciplinary action after the league’s investigation found no conclusive evidence that he directed a racial slur at an opponent during a Sept. 18 game at Audi Field.

The league said Monday that Miami defenseman Aimé Mabika’s claim was “credible” but could not “independently confirm.” MLS also said it did not find credible “Fountas’ claim that he said nothing at the time – discriminatory or otherwise. The video of the incident clearly shows Mabiko reacting suddenly to something he believed he heard from Fountas.”

The league said it interviewed several people and reviewed video and audio as part of its investigation, but was unable to determine “what Fountas said at that point.”

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

Miami refused to continue playing unless Fountas was removed from the game. United manager Wayne Rooney is obliged.

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“I didn’t use the word I’m being accused of,” Fountas wrote in an Instagram post a day later. “I condemn this heinous racial insult and I did not use it. We had a heated discussion on the field. But I did not racially insult anyone. I firmly reject racism in any form. It is despicable.”

Judge Ismail Elfath told a pool reporter at the time that no official had heard racist or abusive language and that none had been detected through video review.

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As previously planned, Fountas then traveled to Greece to play twice for his national team. He was scheduled to return stateside for the final two MLS games of the season, but citing a stressful situation for Fountas and his family, Rooney granted him extra time off.

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

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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 after several interviews were conducted with the individuals involved and who were in the vicinity of the incident.”

MLS spoke to Fountas at least twice, people familiar with the investigation said, and contacted United’s Christian Benteke and Ravel Morrison, who are black. Both were on the field at the time of the incident. Several Miami players were also interviewed.

Fountas could not be reached for comment Monday, but a person who spoke to him said the player was “relieved and eager to return.” Miami officials had no immediate comment.

MLS said it will review its policies and practices regarding allegations of offensive and discriminatory language.

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

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As part of updated guidelines established in December, teams must interview at least two candidates from underrepresented groups, including one black candidate, for technical staff jobs such as coach and general manager. (Previous rules mandated one candidate from those groups.)

Starting with a list of at least five candidates, United spoke with a black and Latino coach — both from overseas, a person close to the situation said — but one of those talks “cannot be considered a ‘finalist pool’ interview,” the league said. .

One candidate, United said in a statement, went through the same process as the others. However, the club added, he told team officials at the time that he would not be interested in the job, which began mid-season.

“After learning this, the club turned its attention to the remaining finalist candidates,” United said.

The league, however, said United “remained obligated to bring an additional candidate from the underrepresented pool to the ‘finalist pool’ or request an exemption from MLS detailing extenuating circumstances that would prevent them from doing so.”



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