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Hackett: No Easy Fix For The Trust Petke Lost With RSL Fans

Head coach Mike Petke of New York Red Bulls watches from the sidelines against the D.C. United at Red Bull Arena on March 16, 2013 in Harrison, New Jersey. Red Bulls and DC United play to a 0-0 draw. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

SANDY, Utah – Mike Petke, head coach of Real Salt Lake, has been in hot water before, but nothing like we have recently seen. He barraged the officials with homophobic slurs minutes after the club’s 1-0 loss to Liga MX club Tigres UANL in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals at Rio Tinto Stadium.

There were four minutes of added time and RSL was down one goal.

Midway through the extra minutes, a cat appeared on the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium. Referee John Pitti stopped the play while the grounds staff ushered the cat out of the stadium. Play resumed after the minute-long break after Pitti blew the final whistle once the clock ticked to four minutes.

He did not add any extra time despite the cat incident taking at least a minute to sort out.

RSL players were not happy. Nick Rimando expressed his disdain toward the referees regarding the lack of extra minutes.


Enter Petke.

The RSL manager approached the referees while also pulling his players away and keeping them out of trouble. Petke added some words of his own and consequently received a red card from referee John Pitti. When the red card was shown Petke made a big, big mistake.

It is unclear what exactly Petke said, although you can clearly lip-read him screaming a homophobic slur. Multiple times.

The language will not be repeated in this article, because the words used are certainly not appropriate. Not appropriate for a fan, a player and certainly not a head coach.

Here is how the moment unfolded, according to MLS Referee Stats on Twitter.

The MLS underwent their own investigation in which they determined that a three-match suspension, $25,000 fine and mandatory anger management classes were in order for Petke.

The club issued their own punishment stating that Petke will go without pay and that he is not allowed inside the club’s doors nor is he allowed to do anything related to his work – that includes coaches shows or podcasts.

It is not the first time Petke has found himself in trouble with Major League Soccer. In 2017, Petke was fined $3,000 for criticizing league officials and in 2018 was fined $10,000 for verbally abusing referees.

Petke’s Reaction

During the post-game press conference, Petke was asked what led to him seeing red.

“Go back and look at the videotape, I am pulling five of my players away and I am talking to my players and he gives me a red card,” Petke said. “He [referee John Pitti] must have thought I was talking to him, I don’t know, and then afterward was just extra. I told him what I felt.”

Petke seemed confused as to why he received a red card. He stated, “All I was doing was grabbing my players, what I said after would have gotten me a red card.”

 The Backlash

RSL fans are starting to question whether Petke should return as head coach of the club, as they should.

Salt Lake City celebrated the LGBTQ community in June dedicating the entire month to “Pride Month” and hosting a parade through the streets of SLC on June first of this year.

Around that same time, Petke was seen coaching in a shirt with the words “Soccer For All”, clearly indicating his allegiance to the LGBTQ community.

His actions after the Leagues Cup have fans scratching their heads.

Here are some thoughts from RSL fans on the Mike Petke situation.

No Easy Fix

On this weeks episode of The Lions Den, myself and Spencer Warne discussed in detail the suspension of Petke and what it means for the club moving forward. We agreed – there is no easy fix.

When trust is lost, you do not regain that trust overnight. In fact, trust is one of the hardest things in life to gain, yet very easy to lose. Mike Petke is learning the hard way.

The suspension and denial of any club activities could suggest the club is doing its own investigation, breaking down every detail and attempting to figure out whether they bring Petke back or let him go. Only time will tell.

Listen to the full episode below and hear what myself and Spencer had to say on the matter.

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