As part of the investigation, the league said, it interviewed several people and reviewed video footage and audio recordings, but was unable to determine “what Fountas said at that point.”
Mabika had accused Fountas of using the n-word during an incident with Damion Lowe in the second half. Lowe, who is Jamaican, and Mabika, who is Zambian, are black. Fountas, who is Greek, is white.
Miami refused to restart the game unless Fountas was ejected from the game. United manager Wayne Rooney obliged.
“I did not use the word I am accused of using,” Fountas wrote in an Instagram post a day later. “That disgusting racial slur is what I denounce and I did not use it. We had a heated discussion on the field. But I have not racially abused anyone. I firmly reject racism in any form. It’s disgusting.”
Referee Ismail Elfath told a pool reporter at the time that no official had heard racist or abusive language and that none was discovered through video review.
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As previously planned, Fountas then traveled to Greece to play twice for his national team. He was due to return stateside for the final two games of the MLS season, but citing the stress of the situation on Fountas and his family, Rooney granted him extra time off.
Fountas, United’s lone All-Star selection, is under contract through the 2024 season. This year, he had a team-high 12 goals and added three assists in 21 appearances.
In a statement, United officials said they “appreciate and accept the findings of the league’s investigation, as well as the conclusion that the act in question could not be confirmed after several interviews were conducted with individuals involved and close to the incident.”
MLS interviewed Fountas at least twice, people familiar with the investigation said, and contacted United’s Christian Benteke and Ravel Morrison, who are black. Both were on the field at the time of the incident. Several Miami players were also interviewed.
Fountas was not available for comment Monday, but a person who spoke to him said the player is “relieved and eager to get back.” Miami officials did not immediately comment.
MLS said it will review its policies and practices regarding allegations of abusive and discriminatory language.
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In a separate investigation, MLS announced it had fined United $25,000 for violating the league’s diversity hiring policy before the club named Rooney in July. A first offense warranted a fine of up to $50,000.
As part of updated guidelines put in place in December, teams are required to interview at least two candidates from underrepresented groups, including one candidate of color, for coaching staff jobs such as head coach and general manager. (Previous rules mandated one candidate from those groups.)
Starting with a shortlist of at least five candidates, United spoke to a black coach and a Latino — both from abroad, a person close to the situation said — but one of those conversations “couldn’t be considered a ‘finalist pool’ interview.” . “said the league.
One candidate, United said in a statement, went through the same process as the others. However, the club added, he then told team officials he would not be interested in a job that starts midway through the season.
“Upon learning this, the club turned its attention to the remaining finalist candidates,” United said.
However, the league said United “remained obligated to bring an additional candidate from an underrepresented group to the finalist pool” or request a waiver from MLS detailing extenuating circumstances that would not allow them to do so. “