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Is Dante Vanzeir's MLS Suspension & Punishment Severe Enough?

Apr 16, 2023
MLS Disciplinary Summary Red Bulls

Dante Vanzeir is a Belgian soccer player who currently plays as a forward for the New York Red Bulls (Red Bulls) in Major League Soccer (MLS). Vanzeir was born in Hasselt, Belgium, and began his professional career at the age of 18 with KRC Genk, a Belgian professional football club.

Vanzeir joined the Red Bulls in February of this year (2023) on loan from Belgian club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. Vanzeir scored his first goal for the Red Bulls helping to win a 2 to 1 victory over Columbus Crew.  

However, Vanzeir's time with the Red Bulls has been marred by controversy after he was caught uttering a racial slur during the Red Bulls game against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 8, 2023. There has been widespread condemnation from fans and the soccer community. 

After an investigation by the MLS, Vanzeir was suspended for 6 games and given an undisclosed fine. In addition, Vanzeir is prohibited from playing in the US Open Cup and MLS Next Pro games and exhibition matches until his suspension is served.  MLS will require Vanzeir to participate in additional MLS-mandated training and education sessions as well as what has been called a “restorative practices program”

To our knowledge, there has been no disclosure of what exactly Vanzeir stated on the field.  One could imagine what derogatory or racist comment was made but would it not be important to state exactly what was said to determine whether the punishment is appropriate or too soft?


MLS is also providing players and staff with resources in support of those impacted by Vanzeir’s racist statement.  MLS is also reviewing its game protocols to see if there are improvements that can be made if there are any future circumstances like the one surrounding Vanzeir’s game time statement.

The Red Bulls organization acted quickly, condemning Vanzeir's behavior and suspending him from all team activities pending an investigation. The team released a statement that read: "The New York Red Bulls organization does not tolerate discrimination or any form of hateful language. We are taking this incident very seriously and have suspended Dante Vanzeir from all team activities until further notice while we investigate the matter."

Vanzeir issued a public apology on social media, acknowledging the harm caused by his use of the racial slur and vowing to do better in the future. "I am deeply sorry for my actions and the hurt I have caused," Vanzeir wrote. "I take full responsibility for my words and understand the impact they have had. I am committed to learning from this experience and being a better person and teammate moving forward."

The impact of Vanzeir's suspension on the Red Bulls soccer team remains to be seen. While Vanzeir was not a regular starter for the team, he provided valuable depth and scoring ability off the bench. The team will need to find a way to replace his contributions on the field, while also addressing the larger issue of discrimination and prejudice in the sport.

Dante Vanzeir's uttering of a racial slur during a training session was a serious breach of conduct that has had significant consequences for himself and the New York Red Bulls. While his suspension from the team is appropriate given the fact that discrimination and hateful language have no place in soccer or any other aspect of life. We hope that Vanzeir will use this experience to grow and become a better person and player and that the Red Bulls organization will continue to take a strong stance against all forms of discrimination. Some believe that the MLS’s punishment is weak and that an opportunity to send a strong message about racism has been lost.

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