ST. PETERSBURG — The USL Championship announced Monday night that Rowdies midfielder Laurence Wyke has been suspended 12 games and issued an undisclosed fine after he “violated the league’s zero-tolerance policy related to any form of harassment or discrimination on or off the field.”
After the Rowdies played at Monterey Bay FC on Oct. 2, the league said it investigated “allegations of racially discriminatory behavior.” The league’s explanation was brief, but the Rowdies provided more detail in a statement that said the team will appeal the suspension. Tampa Bay also claimed the league “rushed to a conclusion and issued a statement without providing us the full report.”
“This decision to suspend Laurence Wyke for an unprecedented 12 games, double the amount of any previous suspension of this kind, is unbecoming of the league and sets a dangerous standard for all players,” the team’s statement read, in part.
“We all know that there was a heated match between the two clubs last weekend and tensions rose after the match concluded. Words and gestures were exchanged. However, we dispute that there was any racial intent behind what Laurence did that evening. There certainly was no racial abuse by Laurence.”
Wyke, who had started 27 of the team’s previous 29 matches, didn’t play in Tampa Bay’s next game against Loudoun United FC on Saturday. The 26-year-old has been with the Rowdies since 2021.
The Rowdies’ decision to appeal stemmed from “zero audio or visual evidence suggesting (Wyke) behaved in a racist manner,” according to the team. The statement also said that “several Rowdies staff and players witnessed the events and confirmed the same,” adding that if coaches, executives or other Tampa Bay players “believed there to be any racial intent behind his actions, he would not have a spot on our roster.”
The Rowdies host two games this week — El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday and New York Red Bulls II on Saturday — to close out the regular season.