A soccer team owned by FIFA streamer Edwin Castro has withdrawn from an inaugural soccer tournament after a member of the team allegedly used a racial slur against an opposing player in a match.
Dallas United was playing West Ham United F.C. in the inaugural The Soccer Tournament (or TST), a 7v7 tournament with a $1 million prize for the winning team taking place in Cary, North Carolina on June 1. The Dallas team, which is composed of “mostly amateur players from the Dallas area,” according to ESPN, was up 2-0 in the match against West Ham when the incident reportedly took place.
Video clips on social media show West Ham players gathered around the match’s referee, with center back and former English Premier League player Anton Ferdinand at the center of it all. One clip appears to show Ferdinand telling the ref “I’m here to set a precedent now,” before the entire team decided to walk off the pitch. Though it’s unclear what was allegedly said, the chatter on social media and on sites like The Daily Mail suggest the n-word was hurled at Ferdinand by a Dallas United player.
The official TST twitter account later shared an update, saying that it had “[conducted] an investigation into the final moments of the match between West Ham United and Dallas United” and “concluded that Dallas United violated TST’s code of conduct.”
“We have been in dialogue with leadership from both clubs and we are all aligned that the best path forward is Dallas United withdrawing from competition,” the statement also reads.
Though Castro’s Dallas squad initially shared a tweet stating that it had launched its own internal investigation into what took place during the match and was “cooperating fully” with TST’s investigation, a later tweet seemed to suggest the squad’s stance is that the “accusation” against them is false. “In light of the shadow cast by an opposing player’s accusation during tonight’s match, the Dallas United players unanimously decided to withdraw from the remainder of the competition,” read a tweet posted just a few hours after the initial one. Kotaku reached out to TST and Castro for comment.
Castro has 3.5 million followers on his Twitch account and over 1.5 million on Twitter. He is best known for his FIFA streams. In a March 7 video posted to the Dallas United Twitter account, Castro likens owning the team to “[playing] FIFA in real life.”
As reported by ABC 11, North Carolina’s branch of the news organization, Ferdinand spoke to reporters after West Ham’s final match on June 2, praising TST’s swift response to the allegations. “I need to go on record and say the topic of conversation that was laid bare yesterday is better than football. The way that TST dealt with it so swiftly, the no-nonsense action, a lot of people around the world, organizations around the world, can take note,” he said.
West Ham and their opponents reportedly knelt in solidarity before Friday’s match, as Ferdinand’s team considered not continuing on in the tournament after the racially charged incident. “When somebody of white heritage hears somebody of my heritage speak of [such racism], it’s almost like it’s a broken record, we’ve heard it before. But when you hear it from somebody who looks like you, it makes you take note. So I think everybody needs to come together to fight as a collective. And if we do that, football can be the catalyst for change in society. But society is going to have to want to change with it,” Ferdinand said during the press conference.
As reported by the BBC, Ferdinand isn’t the only former pro footballer competing in the tournament—Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Cesc Fabregas are a part of it, as well, and professional clubs Borussia Dortmund and Wrexham (owned by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney) have teams representing them, as well.
This is also, sadly, not the first time Ferdinand has faced racism as a Black man in football. According to the BBC, a former Chelsea player was fined and banned four matches back in 2011 for racially abusing him when he was a defender on Queens Park Rangers. Racism has no place in football, gaming, or otherwise.