The Professional Soccer Referees Association and the state’s largest LGBTQ support group on Tuesday condemned Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke for his use of homophobic slurs directed at Leagues Cup officials after last week’s match between RSL and Tigres UANL at Rio Tinto Stadium.
After the game, video showed Petke yelling at a group of referees while being restrained by two of his assistant coaches. The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed that he repeatedly used a term that is considered a homophobic slur in some Spanish-speaking countries.
But the tirade didn’t stop there. After the altercation on the field, Petke waited for the referee crew in the tunnel of Rio Tinto Stadium and continued to yell the slur in Spanish. Petke also made a handwritten sign that displayed the slur on it and confronted the referees with it.
The Athletic first reported details of the incident.
Steve Taylor, president of the Professional Soccer Referees Association, told The Tribune that the association supported the discipline handed down by MLS commissioner Don Garber. He added that behavior such as Petke’s trickles down to soccer games played by all ages. Taylor cited the eventual death of referee Ricardo Portillo in 2013 after a player attacked him at an amateur game at a Taylorsville high school.
“This type of behavior encourages stuff like that and is totally unacceptable, obviously,” Taylor said. “That’s why there’s constantly a shortage of referees is because of this type of behavior. So we obviously do not condone this type of behavior.”
Equality Utah also took aim at the RSL coach’s actions.
“As fans of @realsaltlake and @UtahRoyalsFC, we were disappointed to hear Coach Petke direct a racist homophobic slur against a referee,” the group said on Twitter. “We applaud the swift disciplinary action. We hope Petke will go a step further, and apologize to RSL’s many LGBTQ fans.”
Petke was handed heavy sanctions by Major League Soccer, Leagues Cup and RSL as a result of the incident. Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay man to play in the MLS, but expressed shock at the RSL coach’s words.
Petke received a red card during his altercation with the referees moments after the game ended. After the game, he seemed confused as to why he received it, saying he was merely trying to pull his players away from the referees after the game. He added that what he told the officials after the red card would have warranted him receiving it.
But a person familiar with the matter told The Tribune that Petke received the red card for simply approaching the referees, violating a new rule of the game under which the Leagues Cup plays.
Petke is expected back with the team Monday.