What does a player have to say to be sent off and shown a straight red card for the “use of offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures”?

I watched the New York at Colorado game on MLSLive.tv and in the 81st minute Colorado defender (and USA National Team player) Pablo Mastroeni felt AR1 Bill Dittmar missed a clear offside call and began screaming at Dittmar from across the field, and clearly saying (from the replay) “F#@# You!” directed right at Dittmar. Dittmar does nothing. Only after the next minute or so when Mastroeni continued to scream at him for the “missed call” did Dittmar finally get Weyland’s attention and indicate to him that Mastroeni needs to be cautioned for dissent. Caution? So what does a player have to say to actually be sent off for the language they use toward officials?

Is USSF reviewing this and punishing Mastroeni further? And how could the CO coach protest and give the 4th official an earful after Mastroeni was cautioned? My question is why wasn’t Mastroeni sent off?

Do players cuss on the field? Of course. But directed toward an official!? That shouldn’t be. I’m reading a book by former English Premier League Referee David Elleray and I know by the things he’s said in his book that Mastroeni would have been sent off right away.

Have things changed that much since the early to mid 90s when Elleray was around?

USSF answer (July 8, 2008):
One of the things we need to remember when watching professional and international games is that the game is called differently at every level of play, whether it is the pros, top senior amateur, other amateur, top-level youth play, lower-level youth play, etc. The pro players are more experienced and are willing to put up with and dish out more than the referee will allow at the senior amateur level of play (and so on down the line) and a lot more than referees should or will allow for younger, less experienced and conditioned players. In any event, the MLS looks at all instances of this nature and deals with them through its disciplinary process.

The matter of dissent and how the professional-level referee should judge it was covered in the “Referee Week in Review 14,” under Dissent, which you can find at this URL:

When deciding whether a player’s actions are cautionable for dissent (by word or action) or can be red carded for offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures apply the following criteria:
〈        Public
Are the player’s actions public in nature? From a visual perspective, can others see it and, if so, what message is the player sending? Verbally, who can hear the comments (other players, spectators, television) – consider the volume of the comments? Are the actions or comments meant to “show the referee up?” Consider whether the actions/comments create a negative impression/attitude towards the referee in general.

〈        Personal
Are the comments directed at the referee or just said as a reasonable emotional reaction to a poor play? Consider the tone of voice and the derogatory content of what was said. Are the actions of the player aimed at the referee or merely personal frustration?

〈        Provocative
Are the comments or actions intended to incite further misconduct or heighten the tension level? Do the comments elicit anger and potentially provoke further conflict on the field? Consider the ramifications of racial or gender based comments.

Overall, are the comments and actions disrespectful to “any referee” – not just to the referee to whom they were addressed? Officials must be aware of actions/comments that undermine the position of the referee and must take the appropriate action that matches the actions of the player.

As to Mr. Elleray’s book, we do not comment on the works of retired referees from other countries.

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