'I called (the ref) a monkey,' argues Dante Vanzeir over racism accusation

'I called (the ref) a monkey,' argues Dante Vanzeir over racism accusation
Former Union Saint-Gilloise player joined the New York Red Bulls in 2023. Credit: Belga / John Thys

The former Union Saint-Gilloise striker Dante Vanzeir has stated that the racial slur he used in a match for the New York Red Bulls was in fact directed towards the referee, who is white, and not an opposing player.

Making his first media appearance since the incident occurred during a match against league rivals the San Jose Earthquakes, Vanzeir spoke to Sporza and claimed that he had not "used the n-word" but instead called the referee a monkey. "I meant in the sense of a clown, dummy," he explained, "because I felt he had made a wrong decision."

However, the Belgian player stated that "I was immediately approached by a few guys from the opposing team because they felt I had uttered it against them." The players who accused Vanzeir of uttering a racial slur have neither confirmed nor denied whether "monkey" was the word used.

The former Union Saint-Gilloise striker argued that "in our language, that word is more often used with an intention that is not at all racist" and explained that "I never even considered that that word would be offensive to any of my opponents."

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Nonetheless, Vanzeir has now been suspended for six matches after an initial investigation into the incident by Major League Soccer. He has also been forced to follow sensitivity training, a punishment which "he fully accepts."

He concluded the interview by stating that he wishes to return to the pitch as a player for the New York Red Bulls and "hoped that the supporters will be able to forgive me." He stated that the incident allowed him to process everything and is ready to show "that I am a good guy and that in my head and heart, I am free of racism."

But Vanzeir's words may be too little too late after the New York Red Bulls' supporters groups organised a boycott at their last home game, deeming that the MLS' sanction of a six-game suspension had not been harsh enough.

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