Mike Petke of Real Salt Lake during the match between Orlando City v Real Salt Lake on May 6, 2018 (Peter Lous/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Major League Soccer club Real Salt Lake has sacked its head coach Mike Petke for using anti-gay slurs.
The club terminated Petke’s contract after he reportedly screamed homophobic slurs at a referee during the team’s July 24 Leagues Cup match against Mexican team Tigres.
Real Salt Lake coach repeatedly used homophobic slurs
The coach reportedly referred to one of the referees as a “motherf**king puto,” a Spanish anti-gay slur that is common at football matches in Spanish-speaking countries.
Petke also allegedly made a handwritten sign that displayed the slur on it, confronting referees with it after the match.
The Salt Lake City-based club initially suspended Petke without pay for two weeks, on top of a three-match suspension and $25,000 fine from MLS.
However, as his suspension neared its expiration, the club confirmed he would not be allowed to return.
In a statement, the club said: “At Real Salt Lake, we have the privilege to represent our great community and fans here locally and on a national and global basis.
“We hold all of our coaches, players, executives and staff to the highest standards of professionalism.
“As an organisation, it is vital that everyone, particularly our leadership, reflects and embodies our core values and the values of our community, treating all people with respect, civility and professionalism.
“Moreover, throughout our 15-year history, we have championed diversity, acceptance and inclusion throughout our organization, our stadiums and our community. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”
Football club terminates coach after ‘constructive discussions’
The club added: “After further deliberations and a series of constructive discussions internally and with various members of our community, we have concluded, pursuant to his employment agreement, to immediately terminate Mike Petke’s employment.”
The team has named assistant coach Freddy Juarez as interim head coach.
Petke had been at the club since 2017.
LGBT+ group Equality Utah welcomed the decision to dismiss him, saying: “Today @realsaltlake has made a positive statement—with both words and deeds—that neither homophobia nor racism is acceptable in Utah.”
The club’s owner admitted previously that he was torn over whether to sack Petke.
According to RSL Soapbox, owner Dell Loy Hansen had said: “We’ve polled the millenials closely, the older fans — it’s a deep split.
“Millenials are almost 90 percent out, the older fans are almost 90 percent in. I’ve got two generations in this whole thing, so it’s an interesting conversation. Our point is we’re weighing it, but at the end, once it’s all in, it still comes down to our values.”