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MLS suspends, fines Clark for anti-gay remark


Photo by Dani Vernon/

Major League Soccer has sent a strong message that should make players think twice before using controversial language in any forum, whether it be on the field or through social media.

The league suspended Houston Dynamo winger Colin Clark three games, fined him an undisclosed amount and mandated him to attend diversity and sensitivity training for using an anti-gay slur toward a Seattle Sounders ball boy during the clubs' match Friday night. Clark will miss the Dynamo's matches against the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew and D.C. United, and he'll be eligible to return May 9 against the New York Red Bulls.

The incident occurred directly in front of an NBC Sports Network on-field microphone during the seventh minute of Houston's 2-0 loss to Seattle. The ball boy rolled the ball to Clark instead of tossing it to him, prompting the outburst.

"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 in a league statement. "Colin Clark has expressed sincere remorse for his actions, and I believe that he will learn from this incident."

Clark, who issued an apology on his Twitter account following the match, issued another one in a Dynamo-issued statement.

"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.”

The Dynamo also commented on the incident, stating, "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.”


What do you think of the actions taken by MLS?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Think of this. Would Clarke have used this precise term towards a 12 year old girl? No? Then it’s not a generic insult.

  2. To a twelve year old boy? This wasn’t professionals trash talking each other, it’s a pro berating a ball boy. Not cool.

  3. To me there are two issues: the slur, which is grotesque and warrants the punishment he got, but also the fact that this is a grown man cursing out a kid. He rolled you the ball instead of throwing it? Man up. The fact he threw the insult at all is worth disciplining; the content of the insult makes it that much worse.

  4. While your comment has zip to do with angry insults relating to gays, I have to remind you that intent is considered in fouls.

    Anyone would be acclaimed for a stylish bicycle kick goal. Since you can’t legally score with your elbow, the elbowing is done not to affect the ball but rather the opposing player. Aiming a physical action at a player carries a higher penalty than a mishap while legally playing the ball. Capisce?

  5. How about you use your, apparently lacking, mental faculties to find a new ‘favorite’ and ‘special’ word.

    What I’m trying to spell out for you is that you’re an idiot, by the way.

  6. “ignoring how they are used in context is misguided”

    Ignoring how they have been used in historical context is also misguided.

    There is a reason ESPN took down headlines that read “Chink in the Armor” in reference to Jeremy Lin several months ago.

  7. “I believe that to call it a gay slur is misleading and actually dims awareness of real homophobia.”

    You are entitled to your beliefs. Your beliefs on this subject are wrong. The word has it’s history in America as a gay slur, and is still used today as such.

    There was a documentary on PBS’ American Experience about the Stonewall Uprising. You should watch that as it might give you a better understanding of the historical treatment of GLBT individuals in this country.

  8. Just because they redefined the word in an episode of South Park, does not mean that the word has been redifined as you claim.

    Please go to wikipedia and look up the article on the word f*****, read all of the the information there, and then come back and try to explain to me how that word has lost meaning as an anti-gay slur in contemprorary society today.

  9. We’re beating this one to death a bit but I do want to say that I realize the word is still used as a gay slur. Of course. My point is that it is now, and has been for 4 decades, used as something entirely different as often or more often than as a gay slur.

    I don’t think society is any better than it was, I don’t believe that real homophobia or bigotry is gone (hey I live in SC), but I do think this heightened caution around words and ignoring how they are used in context is misguided.

    Be well,

  10. Oh, I agree with you that he was expressing his anger and wanting to insult the ball boy. I just believe that the word is not solely or primarily a gay slur at this point.

    If the league chooses to discipline Clark because he screamed an insult at the ball boy, so be it. But I believe that to call it a gay slur is misleading and actually dims awareness of real homophobia.

    Again, I accept it’s a fine line.

  11. According to the Laws of the Game. Had the referee heard what Colin Clark said, it would have been a red card. Since he didn’t and it was there for a national TV audience to hear, this suspension is fair. Had a red card been issued he would have missed all but 7 minutes of the Seattle game and the next game maybe 2. Fair suspension. Next time don’t get caught on national TV!

  12. Last time I was called a f******, it was definitely directed at me out of hate. Because I was perceived as gay.

    So unless something has changed in the last two months (yeah, I, a grown man, was called this word by a complete stranger two months ago), I think you’re deluding yourself on how far our society has come.

    And if you polled people about when and how the word is still used, they would reply in the majority that it is used in a hateful context.

    So I don’t know what you’re talking about, but the word is still very much a word of hate.

    But here’s the big kicker: the word would NEVER have been in Clark’s vocabulary if the word was never a hate slur to begin with.

    So, sorry, but I fail to see how your enlightened self can tell actual gay men that the word is “over with” and no longer hateful.

  13. I completely agree. I got flack for saying as much, but as a gay man myself, I’m not in any way defending Clark’s response.

    But I totally recognize that the ball kid was being a tool. He purposefully dropped the ball in front of Clark and walked away. I hope the league has quietly addressed that with Seattle’s front office.

    When does having the honor of being a ball kid allow you the right to frustrate visiting players through your actions?

  14. I mean this in no disrespect but how exactly do you think Colin Clark might of intended to use this slur other than to express his anger towards the ball boy and to insult him?

    Even if he truly “didn’t mean it” in an insulting way, the word is pretty clear. You can’t just absolve people of something because they “didn’t mean” to say it or to use it in a certain way. Words have meaning and things like this whether it’s meant as a direct insult and degrading comment or as an insensitive and ignorant attempt at the use of the word, the person who this is aimed at can and often feels the same offense, not to mention the people who it affects as this being a homophobic slur.

  15. +1, very good.

    This behavior can’t be accepted, but there’s no need to ruin a guy’s life over it. He is a working man and I’m sure this is going to really affect him financially.

  16. you know you really meant to say “lets all pat ourselves on the a&&”…you freaking f****t. that happy face die image is the ga^est sh%% i’ve ever seen. i really mean it …..(well, someone had to ruin the presumed line of decency in the prior string of comments) clarke should be made to attend sensitivity training, not in MLS hq, but at GLAAD offices.

  17. The notion that it is, on its face, a gay slur, but yet understood to be somehow less than that in practice, is very difficult to defend. Even among the young people tossing it around as supposed mere insult the bite is the sexual implication. At which point people are really splitting hairs saying the common usage is any more defensible.

    I wholeheartedly disagree that he gets a similar punishment for merely cussing the kid on TV. We all know that this is essentially the culmination of a series of gay slur gaffes, in soccer and other sports, including Nguyen’s twitter-stuff, that was bound to result in the dull-witted final offender getting the book tossed at them. I think he still might have gotten a fine or suspension for “abusing the locals,” but he gets 3 games for doing precisely what he did.

    As a Dynamo fan I’m getting a little cranky that they circle the wagons around Clark but productive people like Kamara get run out of town for getting cross-ways with Kinnear. The supposed concept was this is a values team and we can’t stay off the police blotter. In which case, get me Kamara back, get me Cunningham in orange, and quit with the moralizing. I’d rather win with better athletes and soccer players, who might run their mouth off, than live in this fantasy land where the team is supposedly full of great citizens who bring their lunchpails to games….and then it’s not quite true, it’s a myth for consumption.

  18. I believe 3 games is harsh. I’m thinking 75 percent of the players in each game cus. If he went up to the mic then he should get punished.

  19. Sounds like someone is blissfully ignorant of the complete lack of serious consequences to the infinite monkey chants across Europe, the lack of any attempt to stomp out egregious diving, the lack of any action after vicious tackles such as Shorecross’s on Aaron Ramsey.

    The suspensions of those 3 players is a step in the right direction, but IN NO WAY does it erase the inaction on a majority of issues by UEFA and it’s national federations.

  20. Does that mean we can use hush as a synonym for stupid and weak? Dont be offended or anything i just thought it would be fun to use the same word that applies to you as also something that refers to being stupid or derisive…

  21. How much should he be suspended? 8 games? 15? the season? I’m being serious here. What is appropriate for uttering a homophobic slur during a game in your opinion?

  22. Excessive! One game suspension and fine is about right. I am trying to grasp what is truely at play here. In reference to the Brian Mullan incident last year which garnered a nine game ban I think this fine makes no sense. What is MLS placing a greater value on, the protection of its players from physical harm which could end a career or its image.

  23. It’s a fair punishment.

    As a Dynamo fan, I am extremely disappointed in Clark for casting my team in a bad light. However, it’s easy for something like this to severely color my perception of someone I support on a weekly basis but really know little about.

    That said, the gross overreaction by the public and media to the incident is simply a compounding of several smaller offenses:

    1. Cursing
    2. Homophobic slur
    3. To a kid
    4. On national TV

    Now, before the amateur lawyers, wanna-be ACLU lobbyists and holier-than-thous jump down my throat, I in no way support or condone the comments.

    However, equating such a comment with the N-word or a racial slur is a highly flawed analogy. Throwing a racial slur in the heat of the moment likely belies deeply held attitudes toward individuals of different races.

    So called “anti-gay” slurs, unfortunately have a much broader and generic negative connotation in our society than do racial epithets. While such terms are equally as unacceptable, it is safe to say that, for most people, using the term “gay” or “f****t” is not intended as a literal comment upon someone’s sexuality. Rather, it is more of a generic biting insult.

    Individuals labeling Clark a “homophobe” and/or “bigoted scum” and/or “guilty of a hate crime” are severely misguided. Yes, he should be made an example of, but people are deluded if they think their own team’s cherished athletes are saints. Honestly, if he had simply called the ball boy a “f*****g piece of s**t,” on national TV, he would deserve an equal fine and suspension. Let anyone who has never said something regrettable in anger that they did not truly mean be the first to disagree.

    Honestly, though, as a Dynamo fan, it will be pretty hard to cheer on Clark. I can understand a modicum of frustration toward the ball boy’s PERCEIVED attempt to delay Clark’s getting the ball. In this case, however, it’s not like the game was on the line and the ball boy did something conspicuous to run out the clock.

    tl;dr – Shame on Clark; the fine and suspension are just right; People trying to paint Clark as the antichrist are seriously deluded

  24. I stood next to a friend while the head coach of a major conference Division I Men’s Soccer team turned around at half and called him the exact same slur. “Look at the scoreboard, you…”

    The NCAA doesn’t care, the MLS is only pretending it cares. If it’s not on tape, it didn’t happen. They did what they had to do to prevent a public backlash. Whatever.

  25. I think a majority of us did, camjam.

    I heard a quote regarding another sensitive issue, the Treyvon Martin murder case, and the journalist said on Meet the Press(paraphrasing), “We’re all born with the flaw of being prejudice. What makes us civilized is working on it everyday that alters the innate flaw.”

    Similar to this story, it’s a large sign of immaturity, ignorance and intolerance. However, I’m not going to villainize Collin Clark for anything other than being extremely ignorant in the moment. He seemed contrite and sincere in his apology and hopefully it turns into a positive and helps him grow.

    We all have our flaws but working on them daily is what separates us from being ignorant and being civilized.

  26. Well, I think we’ll have to disagree on the usage of the word and how we choose to handle words in this society. It’s cool, I think it’s a tough set of questions and I DO hear what you’re saying. I just think we have pushed the outcry over offensive speech a bit too far. I worry that what comes next are blasphemy laws for religious cartoons, etc. But THAT is a whole bigger topic.

    Kind regards,

  27. So to make your point about someone being ignorant and insensitive you make more ignorant remarks…

    I think I can skip “the rest of the country” if you are such a shining example of what that is like.

  28. Exactly…If you’re going to punish for one offensive word you should punish for all…

    We fat people got bullied plenty simply because we were fat….


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