Real Salt Lake has terminated the contract of manager Mike Petke, and named assistant Freddy Juarez as head coach on an interim basis for the rest of the season, the club announced on Sunday evening.
Petke was set to return from a two-week suspension on Monday. ESPN FC confirmed a report from The Athletic that the suspension was for directing multiple anti-gay slurs at officials following RSL's 1-0 Leagues Cup defeat against UANL Tigres on July 24.
Following an investigation by MLS, Petke was suspended for two weeks, fined $25,000, suspended for three MLS league matches, three Leagues Cup matches, and required to take anger management classes, as well as sensitivity and diversity training. He was also required to send written apologies to both MLS and the referees in question. It marked the third time in Petke's RSL tenure that he had been suspended.
Despite the heavy punishment, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen told fans following a Utah Royals game last Wednesday that he was considering firing Petke. On Sunday, the organization did just that.
"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 organization said in a statement to the media.
"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."
The statement added, "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."
Petke was hired as RSL's manager just weeks into the 2017 season after the club opted to fire then-manager Jeff Cassar. Petke had been managing the Utah Monarchs, RSL's entry into the second tier USL Championship. Petke's time with RSL, including playoffs, ends with a record of 39-36-16.
Prior to his stints in Utah, Petke was manager of the New York Red Bulls, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters Shield. But a front office shakeup saw Petke relieved of his duties prior to the 2015 regular season.
Petke spent the entirety of his playing career in MLS, playing for the likes of the MetroStars (the forerunner of the Red Bulls), D.C. United, and the Colorado Rapids before finishing his career with the Red Bulls in 2010. He was part of DCU's MLS Cup-winning side in 2004. Petke made two appearances with the U.S. men's national team.