Only one of the fans who pelted U.S. and Mexican soccer players with drinks on Sunday night so far is facing criminal charges.
Denver police arrested a fan who injured a U.S. player with a projectile, Empower Field at Mile High stadium management said in a statement released Monday night. Widely-shared video footage showed U.S. midfielder Gio Reyna being struck in the head with a container of soda late in the USMNT's wild 3-2 victory over rival Mexico in the CONCACAF Nation's League final.
Reyna hit in the head, throwing stuff at the players is BS pic.twitter.com/pIRo7JMrhP
— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) June 7, 2021
The incident took place immediately after U.S. star Christian Pulisic scored the game-winning goal late in extra time after being awarded a controversial penalty kick. As Pulisic and his teammates celebrated in a corner of the field, dozens of fans who were part of a pro-Mexico crowd showered them in cups, bottles and other debris.
The fan who struck Reyna left him dazed and in need of medical attention. Mexican striker Henry Martín also had a drink hit him in the side of the head.
Come on guys, this has been embarrassing. Fans have thrown water bottles and pelted players on both teams multiple times during this #USAvsMEX game at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Why do people suddenly not know how to act? @kron4news#USMNTpic.twitter.com/jJUXWzcEQU
— Kylen Mills (@KylenMills) June 7, 2021
Denver police said a total of five people were arrested during Sunday night’s match — the other four for trespassing. Empower Field at Mile High has banned the patron who struck the U.S. player from “all future events” at the stadium after working with police to identify the guilty party via security footage.
When asked if they intended to identify other fans who threw projectiles or if they considered the matter closed, Denver police and Empower Field officials hinted the investigation is ongoing.
A spokesperson for the Denver police told Yahoo Sports on Monday, "We are working with the stadium on these incidents."
Erich Schubert, the senior director of communications and content for the Denver Broncos, told Yahoo Sports, “If or when any other fans are identified, they will be subject to consequences.”
In a statement, CONCACAF praised the conduct of the "overwhelming majority of fans" at Sunday's match, but condemned those who resorted to hurling projectiles.
"A small number of individuals threw objects onto the field of play, endangering the safety of players and referees, which is totally unacceptable," the CONCACAF statement read. "The stadium’s security staff ejected fans who engaged in this behavior and in one case an individual was arrested and faces criminal charges."
The incident during Sunday night’s CONCACAF Nations League final is the latest example of unruly fan behavior as stadiums emerge from the isolation of the pandemic and reopen to capacity crowds. Fan misconduct marred Phil Mickelson’s stunning U.S. Open victory and overshadowed the on-court action during the opening round of the NBA playoffs.
A Knicks fan spit at Trae Young. A Celtics fan hurled a water bottle at Kyrie Irving. A 76ers fan dumped popcorn on Russell Westbrook. Three Jazz fans directed vulgar, racist language at the family of Ja Morant. A fan in Washington D.C. even breached the court before a security guard leveled him.
Just as NBA players called for better protection and human decency, USMNT manager Greg Berhalter did the same after Sunday's incident. Berhalter described what happened to Reyna as a "total lack of respect for what's happening on the field and all effort that both teams are putting into the game."
"I think he's going to be OK, but he did take something to the head, and it could have been a lot worse," Berhalter told reporters.
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