Major League Soccer

Peter Vermes addresses Felipe Hernandez's suspension and future with the team

Lizzy Becherano
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes addressed Hernandez's suspension from MLS
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes addressed Hernandez's suspension from MLS / Fernando Leon/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes addressed the suspension of Felipe Hernandez after an investigation by Major League Soccer found he violated gambling and conduct regulations.

The player has been sidelined for the remainder of the 2021 season without pay, but holds the right to be reinstated in January through an appeal to the commissioner. 

Vermes took the time to explain the situation that began on July 5, when Hernandez approached the club and admitted to his mistakes as he feared for his personal safety due to gambling bets.

“First off, he admitted to gambling and he felt he had threats coming his way," Vermes said in a virtual press conference.

"We thought it was very important immediately to take care of the player’s safety. We contacted law enforcement and Major League Soccer. Once we notified law enforcement, they were in direct conversation with Felipe and that took on its own path. We weren’t in that. We were more along the lines of making sure he was safe.”

The coach did not speculate on the nature of the threats and does not know if the gambling debt has been resolved. Sporting Kansas City distanced themselves from the legal aspect after law enforcement got involved.

Sports betting is not currently legal in Kansas, where the team facilities are based.

Hernandez went through a month-long rehabilitation process at a facility within the United States and will be continuing treatment as part of his appeal to be reinstated into the league. 

“If Felipe is following his therapy and the things he has to do, I’d tell you 100% he’d be welcomed back," Vermes said. "We’re all human, we all make mistakes....I believe he deserves a second chance and I would for sure give it to him.”

The head coach also provided an insight into the team’s reaction, admitting he was pleasantly surprised with the outpour of support and well wishes. At first, Vermes told his squad that Hernandez was taking a leave of absence before revealing the true nature of the situation. 

“All along, they’ve been incredibly supportive," Vermes said. "I can’t say enough about our guys and I’m extremely proud of them.

"In regards to myself and the rest of the staff, I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily trained for things like this. But everybody followed through in a really good way. Major League Soccer did a tremendous job as well.”

Hernandez has made a statement since the information came into light, taking to social media to explain and give thanks. 

"This summer, I stepped away from soccer -- the game that means so much to me -- and began receiving treatment for a gambling addiction," wrote Hernandez.

"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.

"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. I will not make any further comment at this time while I focus on my commitment to taking all the steps necessary to make a healthy return.”