After two USL Championship clubs played to a 1-1 draw Saturday night, a player involved in the match took to Twitter to alert the public of racist insults he received from an opposing player.
Atiba Harris, a 34-year-old OKC Energy FC defender from the Caribbean island Saint Kitts, said a player from Tulsa Roughnecks FC called him “the N-word not once but twice on the field to try to insult me.” Harris added that he told the referee of the abuse, but no action was taken.
The Roughnecks acted swiftly Sunday addressing the incident, identifying the offending player and terminating his contract. Fabián Andrés Bastidas has been cut from the team following his use of “foul and abusive language,” according to a statement released by club president Barry Williams.
“The player’s actions are a violation of the league’s zero-tolerance policy, and do not represent the beliefs and values of our club – nor the community we represent,” Williams said. “As an organization, we sincerely apologize to Atiba Harris and OKC Energy FC, and will do what is necessary to prevent this type of behavior in the future.”
The USL Championship did not release an official statement on the incident, but vice president of communications Ryan Madden told Pro Soccer USA the league supports the decision made by the Roughnecks and the league was happy to see the club take a strict stance against harassment and bigotry.
OKC Energy co-owner Bob Funk Jr. also released a statement.
“There is no room in our sport or society for racism. Targeting such hateful and hurtful remarks to a player, fan or anyone goes against the values and principles of Energy FC,” Funk said. “We stand solidly with our player who reported the use of offensive racial remarks by a Roughnecks player during last night’s match. No amount of investigation is going to question the veracity of what our player reported… This unfortunate event presents an opportunity for the USL to make it clearly and cogently known that we will never accept one iota of hate speech among our owners and players.”
Bastidas played 73 minutes in Saturday’s match, while Harris – OKC’s captain – played a full 90.
A 25-year-old Colombian-American, Bastidas played in nine games with Tulsa this season, scoring two goals and assisting on another. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he has also played for clubs in Uruguay, Argentina and Portugal. This was Bastidas’ first season playing in USL, signing with Tulsa in January. He made the league’s Team of the Week in week four.
Harris is a veteran defender who has played for several Major League Soccer clubs as well. He has also featured for clubs in Spain and Mexico, and he has 63 caps for the Saint Kitts and Nevis national team. He signed with OKC Energy prior to the start of the 2018 season.
Tulsa and OKC will meet again on the pitch Aug. 3.
Tonight in our @USLChampionship game; a player from @RoughnecksFC called me the N-word not once but twice on the field to try to insult me. I told the ref but the game cont’d 🤷🏾♂️…We really need to put a stop to this nonsense @EnergyFC. Love over hate
— Atiba Harris (@AtibaHarris) April 28, 2019