Dante Vanzeir (right) talks to Red Bulls head coach Gerard Struber in the second half on Saturday night. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
I’ll try not to rush judgment on Dante Vanzeir or any other player who makes a controversial comment to another player, Red Bulls or anyone else.
We’ll let Major League Soccer try to sort out and determine what transpired during the Red Bulls’ wild 1-1 home draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.
Saying that, if the Red Bulls striker, or any other player for that matter, uttered an offensive remark to an opposing player on Saturday night, I hope MLS lays down the law.
There should be zero tolerance in this type of situation – for any player, star or reserve.
Things got pretty heated up in the 56th minute when Judson upended Dylan Nealis with a hard tackle at midfield. He was slapped with a yellow card, as was Dylan’s brother, Red Bulls defender and captain Sean Nealis, for dissent.
The game then was held up for 16 minutes after a San Jose player accused a Red Bulls counterpart for saying something offensive. The visiting side was quite peeved and upset. With tempers from both teams flaring, referee Ismir Pekmic decided to stop play with the goal of cooling things off.
During that time, the alleged utterance occurred.
According to MLS writer Tom Bogert, Earthquakes forward Jeremy Ebobisse said: “What we saw tonight should not be part of the game. … I know what I heard.”
San Jose Earthquakes forward Jeremy Ebobisse on the allegation of racism by a New York Red Bulls player in the game tonight.
“What we saw tonight should not be part of the game. … I know what I heard." pic.twitter.com/Yn98Ro9iLz
— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) April 9, 2023
Late Saturday night, MLS issued this statement:
A statement from Major League Soccer: pic.twitter.com/KYGgKzlaU4
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) April 9, 2023
“Major League Soccer is aware of an incident wherein a New York Red Bulls player is alleged to have used language that violates league policy during the 54th minute of the New York Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes match tonight.
MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language and takes these allegations seriously. An investigation into this matter will begin promptly. Further information will be provided upon completion of that investigation.
Afterwards, the Red Bulls and the Quakes issued statements about the incident stressing full support of the investigation.”
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) April 9, 2023
The Red Bulls’ statement:
“It was brought to our attention during Saturday’s match that one of our players allegedly used a racial slur on the pitch.
“The New York Red Bulls take these matters seriously and promptly reported the allegations to Major League Soccer. We will cooperate with the League’s investigation.
“The New York Red Bulls do not condone any form of harassment or discrimination.”
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) April 9, 2023
The Earthquakes’ statement:
“The San Jose Earthquakes full support Major League Soccer’s investigation into the use of racist language by a New York Red Bulls player during tonight’s match at Red Bull Arena.
“Our club does not tolerate any form of racism or abuse and we stand with our players following these very serious allegations. This language has no place in our game.”
Hopefully, the league investigation will be swift and comprehensive, two things that don’t always go together. While we want to see quick justice, getting it correct is the only solution.
If a player is guilty, I would expect MLS will mete out an appropriate punishment.
If it is determined that Vanzeir is guilty, the Red Bulls must figure out if a $5.6 million investment in this player was worth it.
Like it or not, a reputation with offensive remarks is not easy to shake, especially in today’s superspeed social media.
Plus, there are some of us out there that are not prone to forgot such grievous behavior.
There is no excuse for such comments by anyone – player, coaches, politicians or you and me.