PORTLAND, Ore. — Editors Note: The video in the player above is from a story that aired in April 2021.
Major League Soccer is investigating allegations of racial abuse directed at Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said after Portland's 1-0 loss to Minnesota United Saturday night that a “discriminatory word” had been used by a Loons player toward Chara, who is Black and from Colombia.
"MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language, and we take these allegations very seriously. An investigation into this matter has already begun. Further information will be provided upon completion of that investigation,” the league said in a statement Sunday.
Minnesota United released a statement saying the team supports the league's investigation. But it also said the Loons player involved, who was not identified, denied making “any derogatory remarks.”
“MNUFC is built on inclusivity and respect, and does not tolerate discrimination under any circumstance,” the statement said.
Minnesota coach Adrian Heath spoke to the media following the game, but it was before Savarese mentioned the comment directed at Chara.
“We are all in support of Diego Chara. But what happened to him today, the discriminatory word that was said to him, should not have a place anywhere,” Savarese said, visibly angry. “I’m extremely disappointed that it was not taken as serious as it should have been.”
The game was delayed several minutes on the field in the second half, and it was apparent that the Portland players were angry and appealing to game referees. But it was not clear what was said or when it occurred.
The Professional Referee Organization, which manages the officiating crews for Major League Soccer matches, issued a statement explaining that no immediate disciplinary action was made because the referee did not witness or hear the alleged abuse.
“The referee then went a step further to inform captains of both teams that he was aware of the allegation, could not issue a sanction, but would be including the incident in his official match report to initiative further investigation,” PRO said in a statement Sunday. “In this instance, the referee acted appropriately in accordance with the annual diversity and anti-discrimination training protocols, which all PRO match officials are required to participate in each season to effectively identify and respond to discrimination of any kind during competition.”
The incident marred Minnesota's victory, which extended the team's undefeated streak to six straight games. It was the Loons' first win on the road this season.
The match was pushed back for an hour because of a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures were still above 100 degrees when the game kicked off after 8:30 p.m. The high temperature in downtown Portland on Saturday reached a record-breaking 106 degrees.