Football coach who was fired for anti-gay tirade sues club over sacking

Head coach Mike Petke of Real Salt Lake

A football coach who was sacked over anti-gay comments has launched a lawsuit against his former employer seeking a payout.

Mike Petke was sacked from US Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake in August after he reportedly screamed homophobic slurs at a referee.

During the team’s July 24 Leagues Cup match against Mexican team Tigres, the coach reportedly referred to one of the referees as a “motherf**king puto”, an 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 a referee with it after the match.

The disgraced former coach has now filed action against his former team in a Utah district court, seeking a $687,500 payout.

Although Petke has previously apologised for his comments, the lawsuit disputes suggestions that he is homophobic, claiming he is “known by those around him, ranging from childhood friends to RSL executives and players, as a staunch supporter of LGBTQ individuals”.

Mike Petke claims he suffered ’emotional trauma’ over sacking.

The lawsuit claims that the football team “executed a publicity campaign designed to damage the coach’s reputation”, citing Real Salt Lake’s disavowal and condemnation of Petke’s comments.

The filing claims the team’s condemnation of homophobia “was a calculated move designed to damage Petke’s reputation by suggesting he lacks certain morals and values – including, but not limited to, that Petke is homophobic, disrespectful, uncivil, and unprofessional”.

Real Salt Lake head football coach Mike Petke

Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke (Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty)

Petke is seeking $687,500 that he would have earned if his three-year contract had not been terminated early, in addition to “exemplary damages, attorney fees, costs, interest… and all such other relief to which he may be entitled” as a result of the “emotional distress” he has suffered.

The suit claims: “RSL should have realised that its conduct… involved an unreasonable risk of causing emotional distress to Petke… that might result in illness or bodily harm.”

Real Salt Lake ‘stands by’ decision’ to sack football coach.

The club said: “[We are] aware of the lawsuit filed by former head coach Mike Petke.

“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 organisation stands firmly behind that difficult decision. The club will have no further comment on this pending litigation.”

In a previous statement in August, Real Salt Lake had made clear: “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 organisation, our stadiums and our community. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”