Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen was critical of the decision on Wednesday among MLS players around the league to not play their scheduled games in protest of racial injustice, specifically the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who police shot seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week. 

The Athletic on Thursday reported Hansen has used racist language to employees and players during his time as owner of the club, and now Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League have launched investigations on the matter, with Hansen taking a leave of absence. Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC released the following joint statement on Friday:  

“As MLS and NWSL commence their investigations, Utah Soccer will ensure full cooperation, including seeking to answer any questions the leagues may have about the statements made by Mr. Hansen regarding athlete boycotts and allegations in a resulting article.  As an organization, our priority is our employees, our teams, our players, and our fans, and Mr. Hansen in particular cares deeply for each of these individuals who works so hard to make Utah Soccer the success that it is.

“During the pendency of these investigations, and until further notice, Mr. Hansen will be taking a leave of absence from all RSL, URFC, and Monarchs operations.  The existing Soccer Executive Group at Utah Soccer will assume all management of the organization.”

MLS released a statement saying an investigation is beginning:

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations made in a report published this evening concerning language used by and the conduct of Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen,” the statement read. “Major League Soccer has zero tolerance for this type of language or conduct and will immediately commence an investigation.”

Real Salt Lake announced he was taking a leave of absence on Saturday until further nothing while the investigations are underway.

“As MLS and NWSL commence their investigations, Utah Soccer will ensure full cooperation, including seeking to answer any questions the leagues may have about the statements made by Mr. Hansen regarding athlete boycotts and allegations in a resulting article. As an organization, our priority is our employees, our teams, our players, and our fans, and Mr. Hansen in particular cares deeply for each of these individuals who works so hard to make Utah Soccer the success that it is,” the statement read.

“During the pendency of these investigations, and until further notice, Mr. Hansen will be taking a leave of absence from all RSL, URFC, and Monarchs operations.  The existing Soccer Executive Group at Utah Soccer will assume all management of the organization.”

AN NWSL spokesperson issued the following statement:

“The allegations regarding Dell Loy Hansen contained in published reports are shocking and run counter to everything the NWSL stands for. We will immediately begin an investigation, and if these reports are substantiated, take appropriate actions.”

During an interview on a radio station he owns, he compared the players’ decision to being stabbed, and said it was disrespectful to the local community.

“[T]hey clearly supported national issues, but it’s very apparent that they didn’t support our local community,” Hansen said, per ESPN. “[T]here’s a profound disappointment that the spirit that is Real was abandoned last night. … Obviously, the importance of bringing community together during COVID was not respected.”

Hansen not only owns the local MLS franchise, but also Utah Royals FC of the NWSL. He continued on, saying that the walkout was “like somebody stabbed you and you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward. That’s what it feels like. The disrespect is profound to me personally.”

The owner also threatened to pull his money out of the club and fire more employees from his stadium as a consequence of what happened Wednesday. Rio Tinto Stadium had its capacity reduced to 5,000 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the owner states he brought back workers in response to the return of fans.

“It’s taken a lot of wind out of my sails, what effort I want to put into recruiting players and building a great team. It just seems that’s not a very good path to take,” Hansen said.

“We will not be inviting fans back to the stadium in the future, so tomorrow I start cutting 40 to 50 jobs again.” 

Players around the league and from other sports responded to these comments. Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore, retired MLS keeper Nick Rimando and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell were among the sports figures to post something on Twitter about it.

Perhaps most salient are the comments coming from a current player on the team, and the current commissioner of the league. 

Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha expressed his frustration in an interview he gave with BBC World Service, saying “I don’t want to be here because I’m not here to play for someone who isn’t here to support us. We are trying to create a bigger conversation but a lot of the people who are in power don’t [empathize] or [sympathize] or do anything. They are more concerned with themselves.”

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