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Former teammate Sapong: Katai wouldn’t look at me or pass me the ball

At least one player thinks the former LA Galaxy player holds racist beliefs.

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MLS: Chicago Fire at Houston Dynamo Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Aleksandar Katai departed as a member of the LA Galaxy last week, after social media posts from his wife Tea went viral. Said posts were unequivocally racist, referencing protests about racial injustice — specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement.

Aleksandar Katai publicly condemned his wife’s words in a public statement before he was cut, while also vowing “full responsibility” over the matter, but many Galaxy fans believed the player to be guilty by association, while others concluded perhaps it wasn’t fair to get rid of a player who hadn’t himself made any publicly racist or insensitive comments.

Regardless, Katai is no longer on the Galaxy and to add to that, a former teammate in MLS, forward CJ Sapong, says Katai seemed to show he was, at the very least, unwilling to work with black teammates.

Sapong was a guest on The Cooligans on Fubo Sports Network on Fubo TV Thursday, and as part of the interview, said Katai was unwilling to look Sapong, who is black, in the eye or even pass to him during games.

Sapong and Katai played together on the Chicago Fire in 2019, with Sapong setting the stage by saying he went from the Philadelphia Union, where he estimated the locker room was about 60 percent black, to the Fire, where he said there were only three black players.

“Personally, if you all want some juice, I’ve had my own experience with Katai himself,” Sapong said when asked about Katai’s departure from LA on the show, airing Thursday. “So seeing that from his wife all but confirmed what I had already known, what I had already experienced. It feels good to talk about this.”

Sapong said he tried to fit in after being traded to Chicago, and even explained that he could differentiate between private players who may not be naturally outgoing, and those who may be treating someone like him differently because of his race.

“Being a minority and I’m on this new team, I’m just trying to show I’m a worthy teammate, meeting everybody, trying to talk to people when I can, and I swear Katai did not look me in the eyes for the first two months I was there,” Sapong said. “And the whole time I’m just like, ‘Damn!’ In my experience I’ve come across some players that they’re just to themselves, they’re reserved, they want to come in, train, go score some goals, get their check, call it a day. I’ve seen those players, I know how to deal with them, give them their space. But bro, when we’re in the game and I’m trying to communicate with you something so that we can collaborate better for the team, and you can’t even look at me in my face? What’s going on here?”

Not only that, Sapong claims Katai’s discriminatory conduct took away from the team’s performance, and the staff didn’t have the ability to deal with it properly.

“I went to great lengths, I remember it got so bad. I swear, this dude was not passing to me when I was in scoring positions. This man is at impossible angle, I’m making the back post run, there’s an open goal, he’s trying to shoot it upper 90 from a 30 degree angle. I’m pulling up clips with coaches: ‘Look at these runs. What can I do better?’ Because I just want to hear the reaction, I want to hear the response.”

“I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, the response wasn’t, ‘Aw, no, we don’t see it.’ It was ‘Damn, we see it, we don’t know how to approach it. Maybe we know what it is, we don’t know how to say it to you.’ I felt that energy,” he said.

You can watch the full episode of Sapong being interviewed on The Cooligans Thursday at 8 pm PT, on Fubo Sports Network on Fubo TV.