Cincinnati coach Ron Jan forced out after racist comments

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati head coach Ron Jans was forced out after an investigation by Major League Soccer found he’d used a racial slur in the locker room and made other troubling comments.

Jans resigned under late Monday after the team notified him he couldn’t continue as coach. Jans had been suspended pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“The pattern of conduct of the former FC Cincinnati coach fell far short of acceptable standards, and created an untenable and unfair working environment for our players,” Bob Foose, the executive director of the players’ association, said in a statement Tuesday. “We appreciate the swift and thorough investigation conducted by the league into this matter.”

The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida ahead of its second season in MLS, which opens March 1 at the New York Red Bulls.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. Last year, it fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said the club learned of the investigation Thursday and suspended Jans while players were questioned privately about his conduct. Berding said Jans acknowledged using a racial slur in the locker room, but the player interviews revealed other incidents as well, with at least one going back to last season.

“The findings concluded that this was not a single incident but broader themes and experiences that were insensitive,” Berding said.

The players’ association criticized what it saw as an attempt by the club to downplay Jans’ conduct initially.

“It is our sincere hope that FC Cincinnati will learn from and address these mistakes, and begin to chart a new course forward, one that includes treating all of its players, current and former, with fairness and respect,” Foose said in his statement.

Berding said the club acted swiftly once the allegations were brought to its attention, forcing Jans out four days later.

“”I think we’re saying with a strong voice: there’s no place for racial intolerance, insensitivity,” Berding said. “There’s no place. There’s a lot of ugly, hateful incidents going on around the world in soccer, and everyone — we must speak with a strong voice against that.”

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.

Players were notified about the coaching change Tuesday at their training site in Bradenton, Florida.

“It will need time,” Cincinnati General Manager Gerard Nijkamp said. “We cannot solve it this in a week, and I think we need a season.

“We have our first away game in New York, and hopefully we can be there fresh. But I know now that it will be very hard to be fresh at that moment, even though we’ll try to do our utmost.”