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Fanendo Adi pleads guilty to lesser Reckless Operation charge

FC Cincinnati forward Fanendo Adi pleaded guilty to a Reckless Operation charge. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s been a little more than three weeks since FC Cincinnati star striker Fanendo Adi faced a late-night traffic stop on the side of Interstate-75 in Ohio. He was cited for Operating a Vehicle While Impaired (OVI), along with speeding and not possessing a valid license.

Adi pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in the Butler County Area III Court to the reduced charge of Reckless Operation, according to court documents. The court handed down a $250 fine and a suspended 30-day jail sentence. The 28-year-old’s license will also be suspended for 180 days.

Heading to his home in the northern Cincinnati suburbs following FC Cincinnati’s 2-0 home defeat to Philadelphia, Adi was clocked traveling at nearly 40 mph over the posted speed limit around 3:45 a.m. Failed field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test revealed the Nigerian striker was driving under the influence. Court records said Adi’s blood-alcohol level was .124, more than one and a half times Ohio’s legal limit. 

There’s still no official word on how long Adi will be held out of Major League Soccer action. (Update: Fanendo Adi reinstated by MLS)

Per MLS policy, Adi entered the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) program and was barred from all team activities after the incident. The league said at the time he will remain suspended from play until cleared by league doctors and the league completes an independent review. 

If precedent is any indication, it won’t be much longer.

There have been five similar cases featuring Major League Soccer players since 2015: C.J. Sapong in Philadelphia, Marco Pappa in Seattle, Liam Ridgewell and Jake Gleeson in Portland, and Cyle Larin in Orlando. In total, those five players missed just 10 matches. Sappong and Larin both received three-match suspensions, while Pappa’s four-match suspension was the longest handed down by MLS. Neither Ridgewell or Gleeson were forced to sit out any matches, though their arrests came at the end of the season. 

Since his arrest April 14, Adi has missed three matches.

Why is there variation in the punishments handed down by MLS? The league handles each on a case-by-case basis, and each one certainly had its own wrinkles to consider.

Arrested in May of 2015, Sarpong was found not guilty of driving under the influence. He was eventually convicted of a lesser Careless Driving charge two years later.

Despite being cited for driving 84 mph, having a blood alcohol level up to .174 and for having two open containers in the car, Pappa’s July 2015 arrest was later dismissed.

Larin drove the wrong way on a one-way street and had a BAC of .179 and .182. He pleaded down to Reckless Driving.

Ridgewell’s charges were dropped for a lack of probable cause.

Only Gleeson was convicted of the higher charge, pleading no contest to Driving Under the Influence after crashing his car.

Both Ridgewell and Larin’s cases also saw the defendants move to suppress evidence. Pro Soccer USA learned Adi’s defense team employed a similar tactic. Public records requests for video and audio footage from the May 14 traffic stop have been requested, but have not yet been received. 

What remains unclear at this time is which, if any, of those factors were taken into consideration by MLS when determining the length of time each player spent on the sidelines. When asked for comment, an MLS spokesperson said: 

“Our first priority is ensuring that the player’s situation is reviewed by our SABH program professionals. We want to ensure that our players are not solely punished if there is a need to support them in a different way through our medical professionals. If sanctions are warranted, they are handled on a case-by-case basis.”

Whether Adi will face additional sanctions remains uncertain. But pleading down to a lesser charge seems to indicate his case is following a similar plotline to those that came before. 

And if history does indeed repeat itself again, Adi could be back with the Orange and Blue as soon as this Saturday when they travel face to New York Red Bulls at 7 p.m ET. 




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