Four Loons respond to Franco Fragapane being accused of racist slur

In the wake of Minnesota United winger Franco Fragapane being accused of a racist comment in Saturday’s game at Portland, the Wonderwall asked for a “transparent” investigation. The parent organization for the Loons’ supporters groups sought answers after Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara said he was verbally abused in the second half of United’s 1-0 […]

Four Loons respond to Franco Fragapane being accused of racist slur

In the wake of Minnesota United winger Franco Fragapane being accused of a racist comment in Saturday’s game at Portland, the Wonderwall asked for a “transparent” investigation.

The parent organization for the Loons’ supporters groups sought answers after Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara said he was verbally abused in the second half of United’s 1-0 win at Providence Park. Timbers coach Gio Savarese made the accusation public during his post-game news conference.

On Tuesday, United manager Adrian Heath and three players were open in some details and in their perspectives on the situation. Fragapane was not made available by the club to speak with media members.

“There are a couple of things that I think are really important for us to say,” Heath said. “The record of this club since I’ve been here for inclusivity or diversity, whichever way you want to say it, has been first class. (So, the accusation) is something we don’t take lightly.

“We’ve spoke to the player and the player vehemently denies he said anything, so we will believe what the player tells us,” Heath continued. “Obviously there is an investigation going on. We’re cooperating 100 percent with everything that we know and has been said, and we’ll go from there.

“But I have to stress the player has never changed from exactly what he said he did. He didn’t say anything. So, we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Heath said no other Loons players on the field heard anything of that nature directed at Chara, a 35-year-old Colombian who has been with Portland for 11 season. So, the crux of the MLS investigation appears to be whether there is any independent evidence (potentially video) that can go beyond what Chara and Fragapane have shared about the situation.

The MLS Disciplinary Committee shares its findings in news releases on a weekly basis, but it’s unclear if a determination will be made before the Loons play their next game, vs. San Jose at 7 p.m. Saturday at Allianz Field.

Last weekend, Chara attempted a hard challenge of Fragapane as the Loons’ new Argentine attacker was going for the ball in the 62nd minute. The two players came in close contact in the moments after the coming together and words might have been exchanged.

Loons defensive midfielder Wil Trapp was included in the on-field meeting with Referee Rosendo Mendoza as the game was stopped briefly after the incident. Loons defender and captain Michael Boxall, Timbers captain Diego Valeri and Chara also were present in the huddle.

“We were trying to get an understanding of what happened and then even more so, ‘OK, can it be corroborated.’ That was the biggest thing,” Trapp recalled Tuesday. “Rosendo, the referee, didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear it. Valeri didn’t hear it. And Chara is coming to us to explain what happened.

“For us, it’s a situation in which it’s hard to know exactly the circumstances and what was said,” Trapp added. “I know there is an investigation going on, but at the end of the day, for us, it’s difficult to make any assumptions.”

United midfielder Hassani Dotson was on the field at the time of the incident in a stadium known for its noise even with Saturday’s game being played it at 70 percent capacity due to pandemic restrictions.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Dotson told the Pioneer Press. “Portland obviously has a great atmosphere; it’s loud and all that. I think everyone knows that racism — there is no room for that in the world and especially in this game. There were some accusations, but Franco said that he didn’t say it, so we are just going to handle the situation the best way we can and figure out all the details.”

Loons players, including Dotson and fellow midfielder Jacori Hayes, have participated in demonstrations on racial issues in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in May 2020. When those Black players start games in 2021, they raise their fists in the air during the national anthem.

Hayes said he wouldn’t comment on “he said-he said” rumors and would wait for the conclusion of the MLS investigation. But he was willing to address what might transpire if the league’s findings put fault on Fragapane, who could be subjected to a suspension and fine.

“It would be troubling,” Hayes said. “Something that we would have to handle internally for sure, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I hope not, and we’ll just see what happens.”

Trapp tried to put the potential for Fragapane saying something deemed racial/discriminatory in context.

“Look, at any point, but even more so, I think, right now in our climate, socially, that is something that is on red alert for everyone,” Trapp said. “… It would be very concerning not only for the individual, for the team, but also for the club and the city as a whole. And we hope that something wasn’t said. But like I said, we will see what the investigation yields.”