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Real Salt Lake fires head coach Mike Petke following rant against referees

Petke reportedly hurled homophobic slurs at officials following a Leagues Cup match

May 18, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke waits for the start of their game against the Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

After having unprecedented fines levied against him, Mike Petke has been fired as Real Salt Lake coach, the club announced Sunday night. Assistant Freddy Juarez was named interim coach for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Petke was originally scheduled to return to work Monday after a two-week unpaid suspension by the club, as part of a series of sanctions, which included multiple games, a $25,000 fine and being ordered to take anger management, sensitivity and diversity training.

Instead, Petke, who has been suspended three separate times as RSL coach, was fired following what the club called “further deliberations and a series of constructive discussions internally and with various members of our community.”

Petke was 38-34-15 at RSL since being hired three games into the 2017 season. He previously coached the New York Red Bulls from 2013-14.

“At Real Salt Lake, we have the privilege to represent our great community and fans here locally and on a national and global basis,” the club said in a statement. “We hold all of our coaches, players, executives and staff to the highest standards of professionalism.  As an organization, 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.”

Petke received a red card from referee John Pitti, who he berated as part of a postmatch outburst after RSL’s Leagues Cup loss to Tigres UANL.

As part of his tirade on the field, as well as in the tunnel, Petke reportedly hurled a homophobic slur in Spanish directed at the officiating crew. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Petke also confronted the officials with a handwritten sign that displayed the slur.

“On Tuesday, July 30, after an investigation and in conjunction with Major League Soccer, the club levied the steepest sanctions ever imposed on an MLS coach when we suspended Mike Petke without pay for two weeks in addition to his three-match suspension in MLS and $25,000 fine,” the club said in a statement. “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.”

Since Petke’s suspension, RSL extended an unbeaten streak to five games with a draw and consecutive wins with Juarez at the helm.

Juarez coached Real Monarchs for 60 games from 2015-2016 before being named an RSL assistant coach in 2017.

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