Soccer’s Burch says he deserved suspension for anti-gay slur

The Associated Press

Seattle Sounders defender Marc Burch said this week that the suspension he received for using a homophobic slur during a playoff game last season needed to be harsh and was deserved.

“I think it will always be on the back of my mind. You make a mistake and you want to fix it as much as you can. That’s what I’ve tried to do. It’s the only thing I can do,” Burch said, his first time speaking with reporters since being suspended last November. “I can’t make up for what I did. All I can do is just prove from here on out that nothing like that is ever going to happen again. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I do. That’s not part of my game. That’s not part of this team’s game. I made a mistake and since then I think I’m doing the right things. That’s the only thing I can do from here on out.”

Burch received a three-game suspension last November for using “unacceptable and offensive language” in a playoff game against Real Salt Lake. Burch was forced to sit out both games of last season’s Western Conference Finals against Los Angeles and will miss Saturday’s season opener against Montreal.

Burch says he can’t make up for what he said – which was caught by television cameras – and is focused on proving that is not who he is. It’s been made even more difficult for Burch by his surroundings. His older sister is openly gay and one of his friends from college at Maryland is former Columbus Crew and U.S. national team player Robbie Rogers, who recently wrote in a blog post that he is gay and is stepping away from soccer.

After Rogers’ announcement, Burch tweeted, “So much love and respect for my fellow Terp and friend (at)robbierogers hope to see you on the pitch again soon!”

Burch said he believes MLS will be the first league to accept an openly gay player.

“I think we’ll be the first league to definitely accept it. I think it will come and go a lot easier than people think,” Burch said. “I would hope that Robbie comes back, but if his passion is in what he’s doing now, I completely support him. It’s going to happen, and I think this is a perfect league for it.”

Burch was ordered to attend diversity and sensitivity training as part of his suspension. He also has reached out the local gay and lesbian community in Seattle. On one day last December he arranged to play in Sunday scrimmage with a local gay soccer club.

“Obviously they knew of the incident, but it wasn’t something that needed to be spoken about,” Burch said. “They understood I wasn’t coming out there to make myself look good. I just wanted to let them know that it wasn’t something that (reflects) who I am. When I went up there, I think everyone just appreciated the fact that I was there to enjoy the game and enjoy the game with them.”