The United Soccer League announced on Wednesday it has suspended Orange County Blues midfielder Richard Chaplow two games and fined him an undisclosed amount for directing what it termed "offensive and abusive language" towards LA Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers.
The decision concludes a three-day investigation by the USL's Disciplinary Committee over what took place during last Saturday's match between the Blues and the Galaxy's reserve side, LA Galaxy II. The investigation included a video review, speaking with the referee, as well as players and staff from both teams.
In the latter stages of the match, Rogers alleged that a Blues player, now identified as Chaplow, called him "queer" repeatedly -- a claim Chaplow has denied. However the USL has seen fit to suspend the Blues midfielder.
"The USL has zero tolerance for this type of behavior," said USL president Jake Edwards. "We cannot, nor will we, condone any language that is counter to the values we have instilled throughout the USL."
- USL (@USL) August 24, 2016
The footage from the match revealed that the incident reached a boiling point in the 82nd minute when Chaplow fouled Rogers. Rogers remained on the ground for a few seconds before confronting Chaplow. Chaplow was subbed out of the match minutes later.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Chaplow insisted he did not direct any kind of homophobic slur at Rogers.
"At no point in the statement is a homophobic slur made reference to, and the simple reason for this is it didn't happen," Chaplow told The Telegraph. "I swore several times at Rogers for overreacting to a foul, but at no time was the language homophobic and no evidence has been found of this, hence the way the statement has been wrote.
"I feel it's important that people realise what the ban is for. I have a close family member that is openly part of LGBT community so to suggest I'm homophobic is ridiculous and there is no evidence to support this."
A USL league source confirmed that its investigation couldn't corroborate Rogers' allegations, and that Chaplow was suspended for swearing at Rogers. The source added that the referee's report made no mention of the incident involving Rogers and Chaplow, and that he didn't hear what was alleged. That lack of confirmation is why the league -- which received criticism on social media over the perceived lightness of the ban -- decided not to hand out a heavier sanction.
The ban can be appealed, but the league source indicated that it was unknown whether Chaplow would make use of it.
Rogers is an openly gay player, having come out four years ago, and he was playing in the match to aid his return to fitness following ankle surgery that has seen him miss the past two-and-a-half months for LA.
After the match, Rogers relayed what took place on his Facebook page, noting that it was the first time he had suffered any abuse since coming out.
"In the heat of the last 15 minutes of the game a player from the opposing team called me a 'queer' repeatedly. To be honest my initial reaction was one of shock," he wrote.
Rogers went on to write: "Minutes later my head was back in the game. And this morning even most of the anger has faded and the predominant emotions left are just love and gratitude.
"But mostly I'm proud of myself. I am proud more than ever that I had the courage to come out as a queer man. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to share my story with others and to have gotten to play this sport I love so much as an openly gay person."
Chaplow, 31, is a former England under-21 international who is in his first season with the Blues, having previously spent time with the likes of Burnley, West Bromwich Albion, Preston North End, Southampton, Millwall, Ipswich Town and Doncaster Rovers.