New Vancouver Whitecaps player Lee Nguyen has been put on notice after an ill conceived, potentially homophobic, comment got him in hot water on Twitter.
The American winger was tweeting with goalkeeper Brad Knighton Monday when he jokingly called him a “fagggggggg” over the social media platform.
He followed up by tweeting “haha jk jk guyssss #butthurt for sure. BFF for life”.
The comments sparked controversy as several fans called out the 25-year-old and expressed “disappointment” in his tweet.
Nguyen deleted the tweets and offered several apologies.
“I truly apologize. I didnt want to hurt or disrespect anyone. Theres no excuse for that,” he tweeted.
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi told Metro Vancouver that the club contacted Nguyen to strongly condemn his comments, but would not take any further disciplinary action.
“We let him know that it was something we never want to see again,” said Lenarduzzi.
Nguyen expressed “absolute regret” over the incident, the club president said.
Lenarduzzi said he’s seen the sport come a long way since his playing days, and that the Whitecaps don’t tolerate any homophobia.
In fact, captain Jay DeMerit is listed as a “soccer ally” for the Gay 4 Soccer organization, promoting fairness and equality in the sport.
Gay 4 Soccer’s Chris Billing said Nguyen reached out directly to the organization after his comments to apologize and offer his support.
“He was very sincere, I know his intent wasn’t to hurt anyone,” said Billing. “There’s a bigger lesson to learn here. It’s an unacceptable word. Unfortunately homophobic language is still part of sport culture, it’s something we’re trying to stomp out.”
After a 10-day camp in Arizona, the Whitecaps return to training in Vancouver on Tuesday.
Lenarduzzi said the club will take the opportunity to review Twitter and online conduct with the players, reminding them that they “represent the club at all times”.
Major League Soccer is known for its open and liberal use of social media compared to players being kept on a much tighter leash in other professional leagues.
The Whitecaps have no intention of clamping down on player’s freedom to tweet and interact with fans, as long as it’s respectable.
“We love the fact [players are on Twitter],” said Lenarduzzi. “We’re unique in that regard and fans feels like they’re on the inside.”