New York Red Bulls withdraw teams from youth tournament due to alleged racial abuse

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 04: The corner flag at Red Bull Arena with the New York Red Bull logo before the Major League Soccer match between New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC at Red Bull Arena on March 4, 2023 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)
The New York Red Bulls are taking significant measure to protect its academy players from racial abuse. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images) (Ira L. Black - Corbis via Getty Images)

The New York Red Bulls have withdrawn their U15 and U17 teams from the Generation Adidas Cup tournament following two alleged incidents of racial abuse against their players.

The Red Bulls allege that U17 defender Eric Tai received racial abuse from a player with Croatian squad Hajduk Split. The player in question was sent off by the referee, who recognized the racist language allegedly being directed at Tai, as reported by The Athletic.

This follows an incident that occurred on Monday in which U17 goalkeeper Joshua Grant alleged that he was racially abused by a player from CF Monterrey. However, no official heard the language being used in this instance and didn't address the episode.

As a result, a Red Bulls coach reported the incident to the match official. That triggered an investigation by MLS Next, according to ESPN. CF Monterrey subsequently suspended the accused player.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Red Bulls U17 players criticized MLS for not taking action.

"What has happened these past two games is completely inappropriate and has changed our team forever," said the players. "The extreme lack of action taken by the league is unacceptable and has left a feeling of untrust and uncertainty in our safety and well-being while playing in this event and our games back home. We hope this situation will bring light to an ongoing problem in the game of football and in our world."

On Friday, the Red Bulls issued an official statement saying, "There is no room for discrimination around competitive play" and announcing were withdrawing their teams from the tournaments as a result.

MLS Next, the league's youth soccer academy, released its own statement responding to the allegations (saying three incidents occurred) and the Red Bulls' decision to withdraw from the Generation Adidas Cup.

"Following three allegations of discriminatory language used during two recent GA Cup matches," the statement read, "MLS NEXT immediately investigated and then issued suspensions in accordance with the MLS NEXT Disciplinary Code to the offending individuals for violating the MLS NEXT Safety & Wellbeing Policy. In addition, MLS NEXT immediately made resources available onsite to the affected players and clubs.

"MLS NEXT remains steadfast in its commitment to eradicating discriminatory and racial incidents at every level of the game and will continue to work with all players to properly educate, train and swiftly address any incidents."

The third incident involved a Red Bulls player using a banned term during the match with Monterrey, ESPN reported. The academy added that further details would not be made available since the players involved are minors.

For the remainder of the tournament, MLS Next is requiring officials to stop matches if banned terms and racist language is used.