MLS coach fired for use of homophobic slurs suing former team

Torrey HartYahoo Sports Contributor
Former RLS coach Mike Petke is suing the team for an alleged breach of his contract. (AP Photo)
Former RLS coach Mike Petke is suing the team for an alleged breach of his contract. (AP Photo)

Mike Petke, the former Real Salt Lake coach who was fired after reportedly using homophobic slurs in a tirade against a referee, is suing the team for approximately $700,000 he believes he is still owed, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Petke was fired after 18 months as head coach for using multiple slurs, in Spanish, toward a referee after a July 24 Leagues Cup game. Following his initial outburst, Petke reportedly went into the tunnel and wrote down the slur on a sign, which he then showed the ref.

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Petke served a two-week unpaid suspension, missing three games, and when it neared time to return in August, he was fired.

His lawyers argue that the termination was a breach of Petke’s contract, which had recently been amended to stipulate that “future infractions” could result in his immediate termination –– but he was fired with a day remaining on his suspension.

“The amendment was clear about what club leaders expected of Mike. He was following that amendment to the letter and looking forward to returning to his team when he was blindsided by ownership,” Petke’s attorney, Clayton Bailey, said. “The decision was announced in a way calculated to damage his reputation, not just as a coach, but also personally. Refusing to pay the remainder of his salary is a move designed to inflict additional, unwarranted economic damage.”

The attorneys are arguing that RSL owes Petke his salary for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020, which is an estimated $687,500, according to the Tribune. Petke is also seeking attorney fees and punitive damages.

The lawsuit also reveals that club ownership offered Petke $75,000 to resign from the job, which he did not accept.

RLS acknowledged the situation Tuesday afternoon.

“Real Salt Lake is aware of the lawsuit filed by former head coach Mike Petke," the club said in a news release. "As previously reported by RSL, Mr. Petke’s employment was terminated for cause based upon statements and actions that are unbecoming of RSL representatives, especially our head coach. The organization stands firmly behind that difficult decision.”

In the 40-page lawsuit, Petke gives his version of events. He was allegedly frustrated before the game against Tigres UANL began, thanks to a notice of rule changes that would have had "a material impact" on the game.

Then, near the end of the game, a cat ran onto the field and came in contact with the ball, but the referees did not stop play. A Tigres player went on to shoot the ball, and miss wide. But instead of awarding RLS a goal kick, the ball was allegedly inexplicably returned to the spot where the cat came in contact, and given back to the Tigres player.

Following his termination, Petke released a statement on Twitter, referencing his recent contract amendment.

“While I’ll never stop bringing passion and all my heart to what I do, it is true that I lost my temper and showed poor judgement,” he wrote.

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