Major League Soccer suspended Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner on Tuesday for three matches for violating the league’s on-field anti-discrimination policy after the league launched an investigation into whether he used a racial slur against a New England Revolution player.
Wagner will begin serving the penalty on Wednesday when the Revolution hosts the Union in Game 2 of their MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinals matchup. Philadelphia leads the best-of-three series 1-0. Wagner would also sit out a potential series-deciding match on Sunday. Should the Union be eliminated, his suspension would carry over to next season.
The Athletic reported that penalty stems from an incident during Game 1 of the series with New England in which Wagner was accused of directing an anti-Asian slur to Revolution forward Bobby Wood. Wood was born in Hawaii and is of Japanese and Black heritage.
According to the report, the Revolution sent a complaint to the league office following the incident, initiating the investigation.
MLS said in a statement that Wagner acknowledged wrongdoing.
“In reaching this decision, MLS considered many factors, including Wagner’s immediate acceptance of responsibility, willingness to participate in a restorative practices process to repair the harm caused, and his cooperation with the league’s investigation,” the league’s statement said.
As part of the suspension, Wagner has begun MLS-mandated education and training, a process the league said will continue. He also “must remain in full compliance with a program directed by a league-appointed restorative practices expert.”