Forge FC players are speaking out in support of assistant coach Peter Reynders, whose battle to clear himself of allegations of racial comments is now into its second year.
In a letter to Forge owner Bob Young, the players cite “unjust accusations and maltreatment” of Reynders, whom they call “not only a great coach but an amazing person.”
“We acknowledge your support for coach Peter but it is clear that the process has failed him and us,” the players wrote.
Several Cavalry FC players accused Reynders of making racist statements after a post-match melee following a Canadian Championship qualifying-round game on June 4, 2019. Reynders was serving as interim head coach while Bobby Smyrniotis was in Europe at a coaching course.
Reynders denied the charge, saying he was trying to act as a peacemaker during “an unfortunate conclusion to the match.”
Still he was found guilty last August by Canada Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee of breaching its code of conduct and ethics and suspended for 45 days from all soccer-related activities.
Reynders’ appeal was subsequently upheld by an appellate panel. Its ruling last fall asked Canada Soccer to put all the evidence in front of a third-party investigator, who is now looking into the case.
“The league has been silent on it because we do not want to be seen as interfering in any way whatsoever,” CPL commissioner David Clanachan told OneSoccer earlier this month.
Canada Soccer did not immediately reply to a request on the status of the case.
Reynders continues to deny the allegation and, on Saturday, got the backing of the Forge FC players in a letter posted on Instagram.
“We are watching people within the Canadian Premier League bubble (fans, media etc.) use these sensitive times, with heightened attention to the racial injustice ongoing in the world, as an opportunity to attack and disrespect us for something that we know to be false,” they wrote.
The players said they had avoided commenting on the issue previously “out of respect for our coaching staff and a testament to how we as club value professionalism.”
But they say they will be silent no longer.
“This is much bigger than football. This is about another man’s livelihood. The players are going to start to take a stand for coach (Reynders) and the organization because we believe it’s the right thing to do. Racist accusations are nothing to toy around with and although we as a club have proven his innocence, we want to continue the fight with him in the public eye.”
Young issued his own statement, supporting Reynders and his players.
“I, our players with Forge FC Hamilton soccer club, and our organization all believe in equality of opportunity for all. We abhor racism in all its forms,” Young said. “We know coach Peter is a person of the highest integrity who happens to be a great football coach. My only response to the letter from our Forge players is simply: they have my full support.”
Reynders, meanwhile, thanked the players for “for the heartfelt effort, courage and thought that went into their letter that they shared publicly today.”
“I remain adamant that the allegation against me is baseless and without any merit whatsoever,” he said. “I will continue to fight and defend myself during this lengthy process, especially more so now during this difficult period in our world where we must end racism together once and for all.”