NY Red Bulls’ Dante Vanzeir apologizes for use of racial slur, stepping away from team

New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls battle Nashville SC in their home opener at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on March 4.
amNewYork/Christian Arnold

The New York Red Bulls and forward Dante Vanzeir each issued apologies Monday night for a racial slur that was used towards a San Jose Earthquakes player during Saturday’s 1-1 draw. 

Following the apologies from both the club and player, the Red Bulls announced on Tuesday that Vanzeir would be stepping away from the team. “Dante Vanzeier addressed his teammates this morning and, to avoid further distractions, will step away from the club until further notice,” the club said.

“I want to sincerely apologize to the players of the Earthquakes,” Vanzeir said in a statement issued through the club Monday night. “I will do everything I can to be part of the change that needs to happen in this sport and our world. I also want to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the organization and our fans. I made a mistake and will take all the necessary steps to grow. 

“I accept full responsibility for my actions. While I did not intend to cause any harm or offense with my language, I know that I did and for that I am deeply sorry. I will agree to any suspension, fine and counseling that is handed down by Major League Soccer and the club.

“I will use this opportunity to better myself, reflect and dedicate my time and efforts to work with organizations that tackle racial injustice.”

Jeremy Ebobisse told reporters on Saturday that he had heard a player make the racial remark, but didn’t identify the player after the game. Major League Soccer had announced on Sunday that it was investigating the incident, which occurred in the 54th minute and halted action for roughly 21 minutes. 

“The New York Red Bulls wholeheartedly apologize for the unacceptable events that transpired on Saturday night during the match with the San Jose Earthquakes,” the club said in a statement Monday night. “The words and inaction was inexcusable, and we believe there is never a place for it. We always strive for an environment that is inclusive and anti-racist. Our organization is committed to providing the resources to further educate our players and staff, as well as rebuilding trust within our community.”

Ebobisse could be seen on replay of the incident reacting angrily and getting into Venzeir’s face as the incident became increasingly heated. Venzeir was eventually shoved away from the scrum and a lengthy delay ensued. 

Eboobisse told reporters afterward that he continued to play because Vanzeir said the remark was not directed at him. It remains unknown what was said specifically by Venzeir. 

Venzeir, a Belgium international who was signed by the Red Bulls before the start of the season, said that he would accept any punishment handed down by MLS. 

Venzeir was left in the game and played until he was eventually subbed out in the 87th minute of what became a 1-1 draw. Red Bulls coach Gerhard Struber admitted in his own statement that he regretted the decision to keep him in the game.

“During our match on Saturday, I made a decision that I thought was best given the information I had at that moment.
While there was a lot of uncertainty at the time, with the information that I now know, the right decision would have been to immediately remove Dante Vanzeir from the game,” Struber’s statement read.