MLS calls allegation of Taxi Fountas racist comments 'credible', no discipline due to lack of evidence

MLS announced it has concluded its investigation into whether D.C. United forward Taxi Fountas directed a racial slur at Inter Miami CF defender Damion Lowe, stating that because it couldn't independently verify what Fountas said, no fine would be levied against the DCU attacker.

MLS, in its statement said that if found the allegation of Miami defender Aime Mabika that Fountas uttered the slur "credible". The league also said it didn't find credible Fountas' contention that he didn't say anything in that moment.

"Video of the incident clearly shows Mabika suddenly reacting to something he believed he heard from Fountas," the statement says. "MLS was unable to confirm independently, through additional eyewitness accounts, video footage or audio recordings, what Fountas said in that moment, as has been the league's long-standing practice in determining player discipline for these types of allegations."

The incident occurred around the 59th minute of what would be a 3-2 Miami victory. It followed a scuffle between Fountas and Lowe, and Mabika then reacted angrily at Fountas. Referee Ismail Elfath cautioned both Fountas and Lowe over the incident, but then proceeded to confer with the captains of both teams as well as the respective managers, Inter Miami's Phil Neville and D.C. United's Wayne Rooney.

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In response to a post-game question from a pool reporter, Elfath stated that neither he nor any other member of the officiating crew heard a racial slur being used. Following a delay of several minutes play continued, but Fountas was subbed out in the 66th minute.

Fountas didn't play again for DCU for the rest of the season, with the league saying that the player "voluntarily remained separated from D.C. United". Fountas will be eligible to play for the Black-and-Red when the 2023 regular season begins, mostly likely in February.

In its statement, MLS added that it "plans to examine its policies and practices as they relate to allegations of abusive and discriminatory language and is committed to working with all of the stakeholders during this off-season."

In a separate incident, MLS fined D.C. United $25,000 for failing to comply with the league's diversity hiring policy during the process that ultimately resulted in the team hiring Rooney as manager.

The policy, which was updated in 2021, requires a team's finalist pool of candidates to include two or more people from underrepresented groups, one of whom must be Black or African-American. While DCU did meet with two such candidates, one of them informed the organization that he wasn't immediately available.

"Once the club came to understand that the candidate was not available for the position, the discussion could no longer reasonably be considered a 'finalist pool' interview. Therefore, the club remained obligated to bring an additional candidate from an underrepresented group into the 'finalist pool' or request a waiver from MLS detailing the extenuating circumstances that would not allow them to have done so."

D.C. United said in a statement in response of the findings in MLS investigation that the club "respect" the league's decision and is "a fundamental practice to prioritize interviewing candidates from underrepresented groups for all leadership positions".