In the world of sports, there is an eternal struggle between referees and players, especially in soccer. Some players, particularly the star players, think they’re above the rules and referees usually try to rein them back in. This usually results in heated confrontations, especially in big matches. Chelsea has perfected surrounding the center official en mass after calls they don’t like.
But what Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey did Tuesday night is deplorable.
Locked into a heated battle against rival Portland in a U.S. Open Cup match, Seattle ended the 4-1 extra time loss with only seven players. Sounders forward Obafemi Martins had to come off with an injury in the 87th minute after they were out of subs. Then Brad Evans and Michael Azira were sent off with red cards.
And then Dempsey went borderline ballistic.
As Azira was sent off, Dempsey grabbed the referee’s book and tore it up, receiving an initial yellow card and then getting a second yellow card moments later to get sent off, likely for some words of the not-so-kind variety.
In the end, no one was hurt and Dempsey was suspended for three MLS matches. But for the captain of both the Sounders and the U.S. national team as well as such a huge icon of American soccer, this incident is downright dumb and embarrassing not matter how awful the officiating was.
When you are such a big star and a recognizable face, you have to behave professionally no matter what the situation is. You can’t just get into an official’s face and then take that official’s book — which is his property and can be considered referee abuse or assault — and tear it up. It just sets a bad example for others, especially younger players, to follow.
Also, it doesn’t matter how bad the officiating is. I didn’t get the chance to see the match, but I heard that the center referee wasn’t exactly the best ref. Still, that doesn’t excuse Dempsey from what he did. All referees and umpires have their flaws and are going to screw up. It’s part of the human element, and no I don’t like that there are errors, but everyone has to deal with that aspect and live with it. And the ref was apparently was put into a situation he wasn’t quite ready for. Dempsey should have just simply complained like everyone else does and moved on from the situation.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t exactly a big deal. No one got hurt and it really hasn’t exploded outside of the world of American soccer.
But this kind of action cannot be tolerated. It’s basically a child throwing a temper tantrum. And nobody wants that.