SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake is asking a judge to force ex-coach Mike Petke to go into arbitration or dismiss his lawsuit entirely, according to court documents obtained by FOX 13.
The response by the soccer team to Petke’s lawsuit over his firing seeks to block the case from going any further in court. RSL attorneys argue that he is legally bound to arbitration. The team also defends its decision to fire him.
“While the Agreement contemplated Petke’s employment through the 2020 MLS season, the Agreement could be terminated by RSL for a variety of reasons, including (among other reasons) for committing any act that brings [RSL] or [Petke] into public disrepute, scandal or ridicule, or reflects in a material adverse manner on the integrity or reputation of [RSL] or the Owner, including, without limitation, dishonest, fraudulent, unethical or inappropriate conduct,” RSL attorney Ryan Frazier wrote.
Petke was fired for an incident the team alleges occurred during the July 24 match against Tigres UANL. Petke was accused of confronting the referees and repeatedly using a Spanish-language word known as a homophobic slur over a call he disagreed with.
RSL’s legal filing claims Petke acknowledged that he violated club policy by using the offensive word and his aggressive behavior toward referees. RSL also claimed Petke’s lawsuit is a “publicity stunt” that included “a media campaign to attack RSL, thus impacting MLS publicly, in an apparent attempt to bully RSL into accepting Petke’s demand to continue paying his salary in full notwithstanding the termination.”
Petke’s lawyers filed the lawsuit claiming the team broke a deal to allow him to keep coaching, instead firing him the day before he was to return from a suspension over the incident.
RSL’s attorneys seek to force the dispute into arbitration, which could block many details from being made public in the court system. Still, the team attached Petke’s contract showing the entire compensation package for his contract (including housing, vehicle stipends, airfare and other bonuses) was about $1.5 million.
“There is no dispute that Petke entered into a valid and enforceable Agreement with RSL. As a part of the Agreement, Petke expressly acknowledged that he was subject to the jurisdiction of the League Commissioner and the MLS Constitution. The League Commissioner is granted the exclusive right to arbitrate specific disputes by the MLS Constitution, which was explicitly mentioned in the Agreement,” Frazier wrote, adding: “Accordingly, RSL respectfully requests that the Court compel Petke to arbitrate his claims and dismiss or, in the alternative, stay this action.”
RSL also included a letter from MLS seeking arbitration. Petke’s legal team is expected to respond before a hearing is scheduled.
Read RSL’s legal filing here: