KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez has been suspended for the remainder of 2021 without pay, according to Major League Soccer.
The suspension comes due to Hernandez violating the league’s gambling integrity rules and standards of conduct.
Hernandez unlawfully “engaged in extensive and unlawful sports gambling,” including “placing wagers on two MLS matches, in direct contravention of league rules,” according to an MLS news release.
The investigation began July 5, 2021, when Hernandez spoke about personal safety concerns due to his gambling with SKC.
Together, MLS and SKC worked to “refer the matter to law enforcement and ensure that Hernandez received necessary support and counseling,” per the release.
In a tweet Friday, Hernandez addressed his absence from soccer as he “began receiving treatment for a gambling addiction.”
“Over the last several months, I have been able to reassess, take responsibility for my actions and get the proper care for something that has greatly affected me,” Hernandez tweeted.
He went on to thank SKC, MLS, family and friends for their “greatly appreciated” support as he works on his mental health to return to the field.
“I look forward to doing everything possible to get back on the field and will work harder than ever to help Sporting KC achieve its goals,” Hernandez tweeted. “I will not make any further comments at this time while I focus on my commitment to taking all the steps necessary to make a healthy return.”
Peter Vermes, SKC head coach, spoke in a press conference Friday about Hernandez's suspension.
Vermes said he was proud of the visible transparency in the MLS news release as well as how the league handled the manner in an immediate way.
"At the end of the day, we're all human beings, and we're gonna make mistakes," Vermes said.
Through the investigation, MLS prioritized player safety and the integrity of the game, according to Vermes.
He also said Hernandez coming forward took a lot of courage, and Vermes and the team will continue to support him because "he's been a part of the family."
"I truly believe that he wanted to do the right thing, and I think he’s working hard to try to get himself on the right track," Vermes said. "I believe that he deserves a second chance, and I would for sure give it to him."
As of Jan. 1, 2022, Hernandez will be eligible to appeal for reinstatement.