FC Cincinnati manager Ron Jans has been accused of using a racial slur in front of some of the team's players, and has "stepped away" from his coaching duties while the league investigates the matter, the club confirmed to ESPN.
The incident, first reported by The Athletic, took place earlier in preseason. ESPN television analyst Taylor Twellman tweeted that Jans told FCC president Jeff Berding that the incident involved Jans singing a song in the locker room that contained the N-word.
A source with knowledge of the situation later told ESPN that a complaint was subsequently filed with the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) by one or more players. The MLSPA then informed the league, who communicated the complaint to FC Cincinnati on Thursday.
"The Players Association was very recently made aware of extremely inappropriate comments made by FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans," the MLSPA said in a statement. "We have made a report to the appropriate league officials and expect an immediate and thorough league investigation to be conducted."
An ESPN source confirmed a Cincinnati Enquirer report that the complaint included a reference to remarks Jans made about slavery after the team visited Washington, D.C., memorials in advance of an Oct. 6 game against D.C. United.
Meanwhile, another source told ESPN that Berding met with Jans on Friday morning, at which time the manager was told he needed to step away from the team until the investigation was complete, and that Jans complied with the request. Berding subsequently met with the players on Friday without any coaches being present and he informed them of the reason for Jans' absence.
FCC is set to begin the regular season in a little over two weeks with a match against the New York Red Bulls.
"Major League Soccer has been informed of a complaint filed with the MLS Players Association regarding FC Cincinnati head coach Ron Jans. The MLS league office, in cooperation with FC Cincinnati, has begun an investigation into the matter," the league said in a statement.
Sources with knowledge of the situation said that an MLS attorney is presently in Florida conducting the investigation. As a matter of protocol, any player who is interviewed as part of the investigation must be accompanied by an MLSPA representative.
FC Cincinnati also issued the following statement following the most recent allegations.
"FC Cincinnati was founded and operates with three core values: (1) being inclusive and family-friendly, (2) having a strong and visible presence in the community, and (3) winning on the field.
"When club leadership was made aware of the allegation, we were very surprised as building a caring and committed culture has been a focus of Ron's leadership. We want to fully understand the nature of the incident and allow for an environment for our players to speak freely to any locker room issues. Therefore, while both the Club and Major League Soccer work together, Ron will step away from the team during the investigation."
Jans was named the team's manager last August, two months after longtime friend and colleague Gerard Nijkamp, who had worked with Jans at Dutch club PEC Zwolle, became the team's GM.
Under Jans, Cincinnati went 1-5-4 on its way to having the worst record in MLS. The team has sought to revamp its roster heading into the 2020 season, signing Designated Players Yuya Kubo and Jurgen Locadia.