MLS suspends Kai Wagner for anti-Asian slur directed at Bobby Wood


Major League Soccer has slapped Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner with a three-game suspension for allegedly using an anti-Asian slur directed at New England Revolution striker Bobby Wood during a playoff match.

What happened: Wagner, 26, allegedly violated the MLS’ on-field anti-discrimination rule when he purportedly directed an anti-Asian slur in German at Wood, 30, who is of Black and Japanese descent, during an argument between the two teams in their playoff match on Oct. 28.

The argument erupted after referee Pierre-Luc Lauzière called a late foul against New England’s Giacomo Vrioni, 25, on the Union’s Nathan Harriel, 22, during the later part of the game, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

What he said: Wood, who spent 14 years playing the sport in Germany as a youth and during his professional soccer career, reportedly understood what Wagner said. Neither the league nor the people involved in the incident have disclosed what Wagner said at the time.

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The aftermath: MLS imposed a three-game suspension against Wagner on Tuesday for his action during the game, a shorter punishment than the six-game suspension handed to New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir in April for a similar offense.

MLS noted in a statement that the shortened suspension duration was due to many factors, including Wagner admitting to what he did and for his willingness to “participate in a restorative practices process to repair the harm caused and his cooperation with the league’s investigation.”

What they are saying: In a statement posted on X, the Union said that it supports the MLS ruling and “value the importance and seriousness of fostering an environment that is inclusive to all,” adding that they do not “condone any form of harassment, discrimination or abusive language.”

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Wagner admitted his mistake in an Instagram Story post after the incident. He wrote that he “deeply regrets” what he said "in the heat of the moment," which was "in response to defend the unacceptable comments regarding" his family. Wagner did not elaborate further on the context.

What it means for him: Wagner’s suspension will result in him missing a third game against the Revolution on Sunday. If his team loses, his most recent game will be his last this season. The German soccer player is also in the final year of his contract with the Union and could become a free agent once his contract ends.

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