MLS reviewing allegation that Union’s Kai Wagner used a racial slur against Revolution’s Bobby Wood

New England Revolution

The league said in a statement that “a review of the matter is underway.”

Bobby Wood Kai Wagner
Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner heads the ball away in front of Revolution forward Bobby Wood during the playoff game on Oct. 28. AP Photo/Joe Lamberti

Major League Soccer is conducting a review into a complaint made by the Revolution following Saturday’s playoff game against the Union in which a racial slur was allegedly used by Philadelphia defender Kai Wagner against New England forward Bobby Wood.

The allegation, originally reported by Pablo Maurer and Tom Bogert of The Athletic, is that Wagner used a slur directed at Wood’s Asian-American heritage. Wagner, who is German, allegedly said the slur in German. Wood, who played in Germany for 10 seasons, also speaks German and understood what was being said.

The Revolution declined to comment on the matter. The league shared a statement:

MLS is aware of the allegation that a player used discriminatory language toward an opposing player, and a review of the matter is underway.

The League has been working with the MLS Players Association and Black Players for Change on a process to address these types of allegations and will have no further comment during the pendency of the review.

The incident reportedly occurred in the 87th minute of the two teams’ opening game of the best-of-three first round playoff series. It was also reportedly logged in referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere’s post-match report.

Video of the exact time period in the match appears to show the sequence of events from afar. Play was stopped after Revolution forward Giacomo Vrioni fouled Union defender Nathan Harriel, for which he was initially shown a yellow card.

During a video assistant referee (VAR) check for a possible red card from the prior foul by Vrioni, Wood can be seen abruptly pointing in Wagner’s direction, and quickly approaching Lauziere (again pointing at Wagner). Shortly afterward, the two players had to be separated.

The Revolution will face the Union again on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Gillette Stadium in the second game of the playoff series. New England lost the match in Philadelphia on Saturday, 3-1.

Wood, 30, was born in Hawaii and is of both Japanese and African-American heritage. He joined the Revolution prior to the 2023 season, and tallied seven goals and five assists for New England during the regular season.

Earlier in 2023, MLS suspended New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir six games for using a racial slur during a game against the San Jose Earthquakes. Following a separate incident of racial abuse in July, D.C. United and midfielder Taxi Fountas (who had also been accused of using a racial slur in 2022) mutually agreed to a contract termination.