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U.S. Soccer levies heavy suspension on Clint Dempsey for conduct toward referee

ClintDempseySeattleSounders1-ColoradoRapids2015 (USATodaySports)

Photo by Jennifer Nicholson/USA Today Sports


U.S. Soccer has taken a harsh view of Clint Dempsey’s conduct during the Seattle Sounders defeat to the Portland Timbers in U.S. Open Cup action on June 16.

After a long review by the U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel, Dempsey has been handed a six-game or two-year suspension from U.S. Open Cup play, whichever is the greater amount of time missed. Dempsey was also fined an undisclosed amount.

In short, Dempsey has been suspended for at least the next two seasons and he could potentially miss up to six years if the Sounders fall in their first Open Cup game every season.

Dempsey waived his right to appeal, per the release from U.S. Soccer.

The Sounders Designated Player was given a three-match suspension from MLS on June 19 for his actions towards referee Daniel Radford in the Timbers’ 3-1 win over the Sounders. After protesting a call made by Radford in the second half, Dempsey was shown a yellow card and then a straight red, after knocking Radford’s referee notebook to the ground, picking it up, and then ripping it to pieces.

Both MLS and the U.S. Open Cup panel considered Dempsey’s actions to be referee abuse or assault. Dempsey was also fined an undisclosed amount by MLS.

Dempsey sat out the Sounders’ 2-0 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes last Sunday and the Sounders’ 1-0 defeat at the Philadelphia Union last Wednesday. The final game Dempsey is suspended for in MLS is Sunday against the Portland Timbers in the Cascadia Cup.


What do you think of this development? Agree with the suspension? Do you think it was too harsh?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Isn’t this the penalty the rules stipulate for his actions? Maybe I’m wrong about that but I thought this penalty was by the book. Can someone please clarify?

    Client’s a hard core competitor. Not excusing anything but these things happen sometimes. Doesn’t bother me that much

    As for kids and a parent’s responsibility to raise them…no sh!t. But kids DO look up to Clint and his actions reek on that

  2. What an absolutely toothless penalty, since it involves only US Open Cup games. Stars of this magnitude often sit USOC games anyway due to league or USNNT concerned. What Dempsey did was disgraceful to not only the competition but to the game itself and, to me, this halfhearted “discipline” is even more so. Had the U.S. Soccer penalty been over all competitions I’d be much more satisfied.

    • Stars often sit? You may notice that both Dempsey and Martins played. Because of regional seeding, the Sounders are almost guaranteed to play the Timbers in the first two MlS rounds. You don’t think they’ll miss him next year? Or the year after?

  3. This punishment is consistent with previous Open Cup rulings by US Soccer. Blanco for his antics in 2008 got the same 2 years/6 games as Dempsey. (Yes Seattle, there was an Open Cup before you joined MLS, you didn’t create that)

    Now time to look forward to the Round of 16 in less than a week.

    • Head butting is the same as tearing up a notebook? And from what I have seen Dempsey got worse since he also got MLS suspension, I haven’t seen anything about dual suspension from Blanco, but could be wrong. No matter what, head butt does not equal tearing up a notebook

      • Good god people, he’s not being punished for damaging a notebook. Put a helmet on and think harder.

  4. Jayzus! The entire thing is strictly about loss of respect for their officials. The degree of aggression by CD is irrelevant. Tearing a book, spitting in his face, stomping his foot or even pi$$ing on the ref’s shoes, whatever. The degree of penalty was never predicated by what he did, but instead “that he did it”!
    The idiocy in this entire situation is that the ref is weak! The Sounders had even protested the use of this ref prior to the match. Then the ref loses total control.. Reminds me of the crappy referee job in Copa America this week in Chile v Urug. How do these type inept ref’s ever make the grade to work at this level???
    Personally, I think CD deserves appropriate suspensions from all soccer associated with MLS and also US Soccer, including MNT. 3 months in every thing accept the US Open which should be 2yrs.. Just for the disrespect of the game! It would be longer had he committed actions intent to physically injure. I also believe that the referee in question undergo professional review!

    • If you think that tearing up a notebook is as bad as physically assaulting someone, I hope to God that you are never on a jury in a criminal case as your values are seriously screwed up.

      • Well Duh Gary Page.. I differentiated that the penalties should be longer had he shown intent to injure..
        The crux of my post was to simply emphasize the disrespect of officiating as being the key factor. The entire issue may have been avoided if not for the ineptitude of that specific official.

  5. That’s fine. But the referee needs to be banned from professional refereeing for a period equal to the greater of (1) ten years or (2) experience refereeing 500 U10 games, whichever is the longer.

      • I bet Troy lives in Ohio. I’m sorry Troy. You should come visit some time, Mateo and I will take you to the weed store, you can watch them throw the fish with all the other people from the flyover states.

      • Oh Greg don’t get all defensive. I used to live out there in the woods so I know it and the stoners well.

        Defending Clint on this is too try-hard and not based in reality, exactly what I would expect from high Seattleites.

  6. I don’t think its overblown at all. Without some rules and lines you can’t cross, its “do anything you can get away with”. Then the next guy spits on the ref or threatens him, whatever. I know its been said but take Clint out and put in Joe Schmoe and the idea of just punishment certainly changes.

    I like how they banned Suarez despite the outrage and made it stick. He wasn’t able to play in Copa America and it hurt. Call me a commie but I think Demps should be banned across the board for at least a few games.

    • who is saying there shouldn’t be rules or that he shouldn’t be suspended?

      the overblown part I speak of is that people are acting like he shot someone. we’re not talking about spitting or biting or sticking thumbs up bu++holes…he ripped a notebook. boo-hoo. suspend him, tell him it was stupid (it was), and move on.

      • He didn’t bite a player, no. He hit the ref’s property out of his hands, completely disrespecting him and then destroying the ref’s property. This isn’t some player. It’s the ref. The only thing worse would have been assaulting the ref himself.

      • yes, which is why i said i’m fine with the punishment that goes along with that. once again, the overreaction is to how some people are making it out to be. talking about what a disgrace Dempsey is and how he should be so ashamed of himself. he lost his cool, made a stupid decision, and tore up a notebook. but if i didn’t know better, i would have though he bit the ref.

        in other words, we can all say how dumb it was for him to do that, and that he deserves the punishment, but lets leave it at that.

    • Dempsey’s punishment is almost as bad as that meted out to Suarez, which shows just how ridiculous it is. What they are saying with this punishment is that a referee’s notebook is almost as valuable and needful of protection as a player’s body. And remember, this is the third time Suarez had done this. He should have gotten that kind of discipline after the first offense and a year’s suspension after the third. Andrew Johnson of Sunderland, while out on bail for having sex with an underage girl, was still allowed to play. Joey Barton has spent time in jail for actual assault, for beating up someone in a bar and yet he still plays in the EPL. You have the case in Uruguay vs. Chile where a Chilean player apparently gave Cavani a prostrate exam on the field. Yes, there should have been discipline for Dempsey and I think it should have been what MLS gave him or what USSOC gave him, but not necessarily both. Let’s put things in perspective. Some players play to hurt other players and have done so, in some cases ruining a player’s career and have gotten lesser punishments than Dempsey got. Yet there are people, including posters here, who get more upset about tearing up a notebook. In criminal law, damaging a person is treated more seriously than damaging property. Why isn’t the same done with soccer? Let the punishment fit the crime.

  7. makes sense, don’t think anyone should be surprised by this…but man, am i the only one who thinks this whole thing is overblown…at least slightly…in terms of the reaction? not saying Dempsey does not deserve his suspensions, but if i didn’t know better, i would have guessed Dempsey pushed the ref down, punched him in the face, pulled the ref’s jersey over his head, gave him an atomic wedgie, and tied the ref to the flag pole…

    …oh, you say he grabbed a note book, threw the paper to the ground, and then ripped the paper? well…ummm…ok.

  8. So, Dempsey is being punished by being forbidden from playing in a bunch of matches he didn’t want to play in anyway.

    Br’er Dempsey says to Br’er Garber, “Throw me in the briar patch, but please don’t ban me from USOC games!”

  9. Would love to see as much passion about providing quality refereeing in the MLS, and the US Open Cup as we have seen toward punishing Dempsey. His conduct is inexcusable, childish, and not fitting for a national team player. However, I think anyone who watched that game knows the officiating was terrible. PRO/US Soccer bears some responsibility for the way that game turned out.

  10. If US Soccer were serious they would have done more. I get why Demps wouldn’t appeal this ridiculous suspension and it comes down to the fact that most players of his pedigree and many others don’t respect this tourney and aren’t too interested in playing in it from the get go!

    • I dunno. He’ll be 35 by the next time he can play, potentially, in the Open Cup, a tournament his club takes very seriously (in the past at least) and that’s if Seattle makes the semi-finals in 16 and 17. More likely he’ll be able to play in 18, at the age of 36. This is as close to a lifetime ban as possible.

    • He’s already been suspended a few games by MLS, and the reality is that with the short involvement of MLS in USOC, 3-4 rounds a year, this is a two year penalty at least. This is not 6 games from 36, it’s 6 games from 3-4 each tournament (since like the FA Cup we come in late), and that assumes Seattle doesn’t bomb out like this year. If Seattle lost the next 6 first USOC games they had — unlikely but possible — it would be a 6 year ban.

      It’s a reasonable punishment for the crime but I think it should have been a year out next season. This is sufficiently harsh it may just be an avoidance excuse. Dempsey may never have to make up with USOC by playing a match respecting the competition.

  11. I completely agree with you. I wish Klinsmann would’ve levied some sort of punishment such as leaving him off for at least the group stages of the Gold Cup. Mainly because of how visible he is in U.S. soccer. Kids look up to him more than any other player on the team and they emulate his actions. When I was younger, I probably would have thought it was funny but now that I am the father to an impressionable son, I see it a little differently I guess.

    • I have no problem with the fine and suspensions CD received but it’s your job to raise your son, not Clint Dempsey’s.

    • I’ve had a similar conversation in another sport in relation to the upcoming body issue of SI, where a player’s appearance has been argued to undercut their role model status. My two cents sports itself teaches you many of the lessons, and the bigger influences are your coach and teammates, who you can see regularly and emulate for good or ill. To me the notion that distant heroes can teach our kids sets up the Lance Armstrong Fall. You don’t know them. You haven’t chatted with them. You don’t know their secrets.

      Plus, while I think hard work and personal responsibility and certain lessons like it are true of sports and transferable, some of the morality of “role modeling” is more complicated. Some sportsmanlike teams I have played with of good guys were soft on defense and pushovers on the field.

      In my other sport I have competed against Olympians in the same division. You get to know them some and find out some are nice people and others jerks, or that they have good days and bad days like the rest of us. They are better at sports is all it boils down to really. The puff piece selling them come Olympic time is not going to hint at that personal reality unless the athlete wants an image as complicated or tough or free spirited, an image that might foreclose commercial ambitions.

      I think people are better off pointing out qualities of athletes — see how hard he practices or plays, did you see the move he did there, see how he is positioned, etc. — and not emphasizing the people themselves. In my other sport I treat the Olympians like any other jock I either like or dislike, but what I really want to see is HOW THEY GO ABOUT THINGS. The morality of it all just gets in the way.

    • I am going to assume that Landycakes, Atx_colin, and SlowLeftArm are not parents. Which isn’t to dismiss their reactions, but there is no doubt that kids emulate their heroes, and this is just one moment of a long and seemingly ever growing trend of class-less behavior from professional athletes. And maybe ever growing because it is self-perpetuating, as kids learn this behavior as they become the next generation of athletes.

      • I am a father of two and i thought what he did was funny. Soccer is entertainment and Clint Dempsey is a great entertainer who gets really fired up and if he didn’t, and behaved properly at all times, he wouldn’t be the player he is.

        I wonder if you all understand the belly fire it takes to be the best in sport.

      • In any good story though, a heroes flaws harm them or hamper them during the story in some way. Otherwise it’s a shitty story, so says Joseph Campbell and I think he’d know.

      • Consider that famous people can just as easily be used as an opportunity to teach lessons in what not to do as what to do. As well as the very important reality check that even the most glorified celebrity is quite human, flawed and prone to making mistakes.

      • WRONG, I am a father, just one with common sense and humor, and one that realizes professional athletes are not the ones to teach your kids right from wrong.

    • I sat my son down and had “the talk”, you should do the same.

      It isn’t an easy conversation, on the surface, grabbing the ref’s notebook, throwing it down and then ripping it up, looks like the right thing to do, because, because, well because Clint did it.

      Good luck, I hope your boy recovers.

  12. I’ll give him at least some respect back for choosing not to appeal. But seriously, what a stupid action in the first place. Totally okay with this punishment, and would have been okay with more from US Soccer.

    • Pathetic and sad but honestly…. I thought it was one of the more passionate, exciting things I’ve seen happen in a US Open match in a long time. Full disclosure: I speak with little credibility as after trying my best to enjoy… I have largely ignored US Open for years. Still, I do wish something could be done to legitimize this tourney

    • The whole thing is ridiculous. What Dempsey di was ridiculous and the punishment is ridiculous. All he did is tear a up note book. That’s less serious him punching guys in the nuts last year. Its just… all so stupid. I don’t think the referee’s little mini notepad is hallowed enough for a 2 year ban. It’s almost Goodell level in how backwards US Soccer has it’s priorities.

      • Lesson to all kids, don’t rip up the book of the ref, just head butt them. If you head butt them you only get 6/2 and not 6/2+fine and 3+fine.

      • Are you out of your mind? He aggressively GRABBED the referee book from the the referee then tore it up. 6 games is fine especially since that is what the law specifically dictates. It is not their fault that open cup is at most 4 or o games for MLS level teams. If it was an MLS game, it would be about a month/month and half.

        I think that purposefully aggressive and violent tackles that lead to horrendous injuries should be massive suspensions (12+ games and fines)

      • Here is my question. Why should I care about the sanctity of the referee’s book? If dempsey had torn up the Karan I wouldn’t take it seriously. There is no book sufficiently sacred that the symbolism of destroying should outweigh actual harm done to actual people. Therefore i can only conclude US Soccer takes it’s little books entirely to seriously and are out of touch with reality.

    • wouldn’t the more apt punishment be MAKING HIM PLAY in the tournament he disrespected?

      with how late MLS comes in this is a 1.5-2 year ban for a player who may or may not make it to Russia IMO. fair in the circumstances but could amount to a career ban.


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