Colin Clark will miss the Houston Dynamo's next three matches for using "unacceptable and offensive language." The Dynamo winger used a gay slur directed at a ball boy in a nationally televised match on Friday night and most expected MLS to make a strong statement, which they did. In addition to the three-match ban, Clark was fined an undisclosed amount and is required to attend sensitivity training.
While suspended, Clark will be allowed to train with the team and use the team's facilities. Because of the Dynamo's light schedule in April, he will not return to the field until May 9, when Houston takes on New York.
Fans watching the match on Friday heard the gay slur because it was picked up by the on-field microphones and immediately took to Twitter to express their outrage. Clark was on his own Twitter account that night to issue what appeared to be a sincere apology and on Wednesday, he took his punishment in stride.
"I am sorry about what happened during the Seattle match," Clark said in a statement. "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."
While the gay slur, especially directed at a ball boy, was awful, the ensuing actions of both Clark and the league are encouraging. After the incident, Clark never made an excuse for what he did and issued a legitimate apology. MLS then handed down a harsh, but fair punishment in an effort to stamp out something that has no place in the game or society and Clark has accepted it. If nothing else, the post-incident actions have been encouraging.
Leagues around the United States have seen the fight against homophobia become more high profile in recent years, but this might be the first time that a gay slur resulted in a suspension. Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah were both caught using gay slurs during games, but both were handed hefty fines and not suspensions.