Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Philadelphia Union left back Kai Wagner suspended for three games for use of racial slur

Out of contract with the Philadelphia Union at the end of the season, left back Kai Wagner may have played his final game for the team., He’s received a three-game suspension from Major League Soccer due to violating the league’s on-field anti-discrimination policy during the Union’s 3-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday, Oct. 28, the league announced. The suspension begins immediately meaning that not only will Wagner miss the Union’s match on Wednesday against the New England Revolution but he will also miss two more matches including league matches next season if the Union are eliminated from MLS Cup playoffs prior to Wagner completing the suspension.

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Wagner will also be required to take part in league-mandated education and training sessions and remain in full compliance with a program directed by a league-appointed restorative practices expert.

Wagner was alleged to have directed a racial slur at Revolution forward Bobby Wood who speaks German due to his time in Germany with Hamburg. When the league was made aware of the situation, an independent investigation took place and reached the conclusion of a suspension. 

“In reaching this decision, MLS considered many factors, including Wagner’s immediate acceptance of responsibility, willingness to participate in a restorative practices process to repair the harm caused, and his cooperation with the league’s investigation,” Major League Soccer said in a statement.

This is shorter than the six-game suspension received by New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir for using racist language which took place during the regular season. Consistency is something that still needs to be found in these scenarios but MLS is starting to ensure that there are consequences for actions with these suspensions being handed down.

“The last few days have been very difficult for me and my family. I said something I deeply regret in the heat of the moment that was in response to defend the unacceptable comments regarding my family,” Wagner said in a statement on Instagram. “I sincerely apologize for this and will work on bettering myself and my actions. This is not a representation of who I am.”

One of the Union’s top defenders will be unavailable for critical playoff matches meaning Nathan Harriel will likely flip to the left side of defense. If the Union win on Wednesday, the earliest that Wagner can return if brought back into the fold by the team would be MLS Cup on Dec. 9.

“We support the ruling of Major League Soccer and value the importance and seriousness of fostering an environment that is inclusive to all,” the Union said in a statement. “The Philadelphia Union does not condone any form of harassment, discrimination or abusive language.”

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