After discussions with our internal DEI Council and others, we have amended the statement below to better reflect our intentions. We apologize in particular for utilizing the phrase “benefit of the doubt” as it is an inappropriate ask of a group of players that have suffered far too much racism and discrimination. We also acknowledge that the Monterey Bay FC players experienced real pain regardless of intent. There is always an opportunity to learn from each other, and we believe that when we know better, we all do better. We are sorry.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies have been and always will be an organization that has a zero-tolerance policy against racism of any kind. We take the allegations against Laurence Wyke very seriously which is why we are appealing this suspension.
The USL has conducted a failed process. They rushed to a conclusion and issued a statement without providing us the full report. This decision to suspend Laurence Wyke is unbecoming of the league and sets a dangerous standard for all players.
We all know that there was a heated match between the two clubs last weekend and tensions rose after the match concluded. Words and gestures were exchanged. However, we dispute that there was any racial intent behind what Laurence did that evening. There certainly was no racial abuse by Laurence.
We stand behind Laurence because there is zero audio or visual evidence suggesting he behaved in a racist manner. We stand behind Laurence because several Rowdies staff and players witnessed the events and confirmed the same.
Most importantly, we stand behind Laurence because we know him to be a thoughtful individual, a caring teammate, and a person who stands firmly against racism of any kind. He is appropriately devastated by these allegations and remorseful that his actions have been interpreted to be racially insensitive.
If any of us at the Rowdies — coaches, teammates, executives — believed there to be any racial intent behind his actions, he would not have a spot on our roster.
It is possible for us to support Laurence while simultaneously appreciating and understanding that Monterey Bay FC has a different interpretation of the events that evening. This happens in soccer — and in life — on a frequent basis.
When we see things differently, it is crucial that we try to come together and understand one another and our intentions. There is an opportunity to do that here. Laurence Wyke and the Rowdies are deeply sorry that his gestures mimicking the goal he scored on a header came across as racially insensitive. We recognize the impact of that gesture caused real pain, regardless of the intent. We will do better next time.
It is our hope that all affected by this incident will come together to discuss what did occur that evening in pursuit of doing what is right by all of the players involved. We are all on the same side of this issue; and we are deeply troubled that the USL is not able to see as much.