Earlier this week, Clint Dempsey received a red card for tearing up a referee’s notebook in protest of what he thought was some poor officiating in a U.S. Open Cup match. Today, MLS doled out its punishment, suspending him from all competitions for three games.
It’s a little strange that MLS had jurisdiction over the punishment and not U.S. Soccer itself, especially when you consider that any suspension would’ve also included international matches (worry not, USMNT fans; the three games will be up before this summer’s Gold Cup starts). Even stranger, Dempsey’s behavior seems to have been specifically covered under the applicable conduct rules. Instead of the six-game suspension the rules call for, Dempsey got off easy with only three. From SI:
In the section of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s policy manual covering behavior toward match officials by those affiliated with a professional league, the definition of assault—the most serious charge—includes physical contact with the official as well as “damaging the referee’s uniform or personal property (e.g., car, uniform or equipment).” It’s pretty much impossible to argue that Radford’s notepad doesn’t fall under “uniform or equipment.”
Those guilty of assault “shall be suspended without pay for a period of at least six consecutive matches,” according to the manual. “The Professional League Member may not provide for a penalty shorter than the Assault Suspension but may provide for a longer suspension and/or a fine.”