Former Real Salt Lake manager Mike Petke said he was saddened by the club's decision to terminate his contract over an incident last month in which he directed multiple anti-gay slurs at officials following a 1-0 Leagues Cup loss to Tigres.
"On the matter involving the Panamanian official in the game against Tigres, while I'll never stop bringing passion and all my heart to what I do, it is true that I lost my temper and showed poor judgment," Petke said in his first public statement since being dismissed. "That's why, before my termination, I willingly served the suspension imposed on me by both the league and the team and have already apologized to that official and the league.
"Much has already been said about the Spanish word I used and the different interpretations of it. Regardless of how my actions have been misinterpreted or twisted, I have always respected the rights of all individuals and always will."
Following an investigation into the incident by MLS, Petke was suspended for two weeks, fined $25,000, suspended for three MLS league matches and 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.
Petke was set to return from his ban on Monday, but on Sunday RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen made the decision to permanently end his tenure at the club.
"I hoped to continue coaching RSL and, in fact, just after the incident had signed an agreement with the team to do just that," said Petke on Tuesday. "It saddens me that while I held up my end of the bargain, including not speaking about this matter publicly until now, the team has chosen to go the route of terminating my contract. Team ownership and I will have the chance to discuss the club's decision in a forum in the future."
Petke did not immediately respond to an ESPN FC request for comment, while Real Salt Lake said they would not make any further statements on the matter.
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 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 D.C.'s MLS Cup-winning side in 2004. Petke made two appearances with the U.S. men's national team.
Information from Jeff Carlisle was used in this report.