Major League Soccer (MLS) has launched an investigation following allegations of racism during Sunday’s encounter between DC United and Inter Miami.

United forward Taxi Fountas was accused of directing a racial slur towards Inter defender Damion Lowe.

The 27-year-old has denied using the “despicable” word and is “saddened to be falsely accused”.

“I did not use the word I am being accused of using,” Fountas posted on social media.external-link

“That despicable racial slur is one I denounce and did not use. We had a hot discussion on the field, but I have not racially abused anyone. I firmly reject racism in any form, it is despicable.

“I have many friends from many cultures. I always respect the culture, religion and skin colour of each person. I am therefore very upset by this accusation and saddened to be falsely accused.”

Post-match, Inter manager Phil Neville said: “There was a racist comment that was unacceptable.

“A word was used that I think is unacceptable in society. I think it’s the worst word in the world.”

Neville, who along with his DC United counterpart Wayne Rooney were asked to talk to referee Ismail Elfath after the altercation, added: “There is no place at all for racism on a football field or society.”

A statement released by Rooney’s club read: “DC United are aware of an allegation involving a player during the match against Inter Miami.

“The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami to investigate the incident.”

With play paused, Neville entered into discussions regarding whether his players should leave the field following the clash between Greek international Fountas and Jamaica’s Lowe at Audi Field in Washington.

On resumption, Fountas, who scored shortly before the incident to make it 2-2, was substituted almost immediately by DC boss Rooney.

Praising the handling of the incident, Neville added: “I must commend my players for keeping their calm and I must commend the referee. [In] a really difficult situation he followed the protocols set out by the MLS.

“I must [also] give massive, massive respect to Wayne Rooney for dealing with it in the way that he did.

“I have always known him as a class act and today he went up in my estimation more than he has ever done, more than any goal he has ever scored.”

Referee Elfath has said that neither he nor any of the on-field officials heard a racial slur being used, while the incident was also checked by VAR.

In a statement, the MLS said “MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language.

“We take these allegations very seriously. An investigation into this matter will begin promptly.”

Miami won the game 3-2 thanks to a late goal from Gonzalo Higuain.