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A pro soccer player has apologized after an opponent said he made a racist remark

Dante Vanzeir, a forward for the New York Red Bulls, apologized after an opponent accused him of making a racist remark during a game on Saturday.
John Thys
BELGA/AFP via Getty Images
Dante Vanzeir, a forward for the New York Red Bulls, apologized after an opponent accused him of making a racist remark during a game on Saturday.

Updated April 11, 2023 at 11:51 AM ET

New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir has apologized after it was reported that he used a racial slur during a game Saturday night.

San Jose Earthquakes forward Jeremy Ebobisse said in a post-game news conference that he heard a player on the other team make the racist comment, but Ebobisse didn't name the player.

Now, Vanzeir is apologizing to both teams and his fans for what he said.

"I accept full responsibility for my actions," he said in a statement. "While I did not intend to cause any harm or offense with my language, I know that I did and for that I am deeply sorry."

Vanzeir added that he would accept any suspension, fine or counseling handed down and that he would "use this opportunity to better myself, reflect and dedicate my time and efforts to work with organizations that tackle racial injustice."

The Red Bulls also apologized for the incident.

"The words and inaction was inexcusable, and we believe there is never a place for it," the team said. "We always strive for an environment that is inclusive and anti-racist."

The statement did not say specify what Vanzeir said during the game.

The Saturday night matchup between the Earthquakes and the Red Bulls came to a halt after Ebobisse said he heard an opposing competitor use a racist epithet on the pitch.

"The racist remark was said. I do not believe it was to me," Ebobisse said in a post-game press conference.

"Also important to note that racial epithets, language, cannot be hurled in any direction — whether it was to a Black player or not — because that would open any number of doors themselves," Ebobisse added.

Major League Soccer said in a statement that it would open an investigation into the incident and that the league has "zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language and takes these allegations seriously."

The Red Bulls echoed that sentiment Saturday night and said the club would cooperate with the league's investigation.

Earthquakes head coach Luchi Gonzalez said after the match that he urged Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber to remove the player who allegedly made the racist remark from the field.

"I definitely was adamant to suggest the player should not be on the field anymore," Gonzalez said. "I know it's an accusation, but I believe my players. I trust my players. If they say something, they're high-character human beings before professional soccer players, so I would trust that it's true."

Struber also apologized on Monday, saying he should have taken Vanzeir out of the game rather than let him continue playing.

"During our match on Saturday, I made a decision that I thought was best given the information I had at that moment," Struber said.

"While there was a lot of uncertainty at the time, with the information that I now know, the right decision would have been to immediately remove Dante Vanzeir from the game," he added.

The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]