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MLS Will Investigate Racial Slur by Spectator

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

MLS will investigate an incident in which a spectator at a Columbus Crew home match directed a racial slur at a black player from the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

Revolution forward Kheli Dube, a native of Zimbabwe, was celebrating his go-ahead goal with teammates near a corner of the stadium in the 89th minute. In a video posted on YouTube, a video-sharing Web site, fans can be heard berating the players with expletives and, in one case, a fan used a racial epithet.

"We are investigating reports of incidents from the May 24 match between the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution and will take appropriate action based on our findings," Commissioner Don Garber said in a written statement.

As part of a statement, the Crew said "there is no excuse for the reprehensible behavior exhibited by the fan heard in the video clip that has surfaced. That kind of behavior has no place in our stadium, or in our society, and we strongly condemn it. . . . We will continue to evaluate and enforce safety and sportsmanship policies."

Revolution officials declined to comment, saying MLS and the Crew would address the issue.

Though MLS has been largely immune to the kind of racial incidents that have marred European soccer in recent years, the 12-year-old league has had to confront a growing number of fan behavior issues.

Chivas USA suspended two fans for two games apiece this season for a violent incident during a match. Supporters from Chivas and the Los Angeles Galaxy, teams that share Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., have had confrontations during games between the clubs.

Toronto fans are permitted to throw paper streamers at opposing players attempting corner kicks, a practice that Garber has publicly supported.

In addition to the racial comment directed at Dube, Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston told the Boston Globe that "streamers, beer, bananas, smoke bombs [and] batteries" were thrown toward him while he attempted corner kicks Saturday.

"It's a problem when someone can take a run and get five feet from me and throw something at my head," Ralston said.

-- Steven Goff

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