Out of respect for LGBTQ community, Rising will relinquish home field if they advance to final

If the Phoenix Rising win Saturday, they will relinquish home field advantage for the USL Championship Final out of respect for the LGBTQ community. Rising forward Junior Flemmings was accused of directing a homophobic slur at an opponent. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC announced Tuesday it will voluntarily relinquish home field advantage in the USL Championship Final if it wins its playoff match this weekend.

The club made the decision after recognizing that it was given the chance to host the final after being awarded three points following San Diego Loyal FC’s forfeiture. That occurred due to an allegation that Rising forward Junior Flemmings used a homophobic slur.

The club said in a statement that hosting the final would be inappropriate and inconsistent with its values.

“While our dream has been to host a USL Championship Final in Phoenix, the integrity of our Club and city comes first,” Rising FC governor Berke Bakay said in a statement. “If we are fortunate to prevail over a very strong opponent in El Paso Locomotive and earn a position for our team to play in the USL Championship Final, we would prefer to shine a positive light on our commitment to the LGBTQ community and amplify the need for acceptance and equality in professional sports.”

The Rising made a formal request to the USL league office and said it was approved.

Rising FC is scheduled to face El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday in the Western Conference final.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christopher Howley expects to graduate in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports and has worked as a sustainability reporter.