Breaking News — A historic strike by professional athletes occurred on Aug. 26, 2020. Players from the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS decided to use their unique position and platform to speak out about injustices like the shooting of Jacob Blake and subsequent shootings of protesters.
Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen had a particularly poignant reaction to the strikes, which he later aired on X96. These statements, and later revelations from The Athletic, led fans, players and even Bob Bradley to demand that Dell Loy Hansen must go.
It was announced on today that Hansen will be taking a leave of absence from all RSL, URFC and Real Monarchs (of the USL) operations pending the investigations.
Leave of Absence Announced for RSL, URFC Monarchs Owner Dell Loy Hansen
When LAFC and Real Salt Lake took the field at Rio Tinto Stadium tonight, they did not do so in their game-ready attire. It became clear the players of the two teams were acting in solidarity with the players of the NBA, WNBA and other MLS teams and would not be playing as scheduled that evening.
— Josh Clark (@SLTID_Josh) August 27, 2020
Hansen, who acquired full ownership of Real Salt Lake in 2013, went on X96, a radio station he owns, to give a statement about how the strike had affected him as the owner of the team and stadium.
“It’s a moment of sadness. It’s 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.”
Hansen: We Will Not Be Inviting Fans Back
Hansen tried to explain the time, effort and money that went into trying to bring the estimated 5,000 crowd into the stadium for the game, saying it would not be happening again.
“I’m sadly disappointed that we didn’t weigh the effect for $12/hour employees, who we shook hands with an hour later and said you won’t have a job here. We will not be inviting fans back to the stadium in the future. Monday, I start having to cut 40, 50 jobs again. We would not go through the risk of inviting people back to have that kind of an outcome.”
That recording of Hansen’s statement was quickly deleted from the radio station’s YouTube channel. When the podcast for the X96 Radio from Hell was later released it did not include Hansen’s original interview.
However, the damage was already done. Real Salt Lake lost $3 million in sponsorship revenue in the approximately six hours between radio interviews. That was just the beginning of the bad news for Hansen.
Extreme Backlash After Athletic Publishes History Of Racist Comments of Dell Loy Hansen
Hansen is no stranger to controversy. He recently came under fire for cutting staff and furloughing employees in the midst of the COVID pandemic. This stoked fans’ ire because he recently paid $1.3 million for a rare coin. On Thursday, August 27, 2020, The Athletic published a long list of accusations of racist behavior by Hansen.
Accusations including using the n-word and joking about lynching then-FC Dallas player Kellyn Acosta. Long-time Real Salt Lake employee Andy Williams called Hansen, “Donald Sterling part two.”
The response from the MLS community to Hansen and allegations of his racist history was swift. Twitter exploded in anger. #DLHOut, which has been used by fans for years to express their frustration with ownership, was taken up as a call to arms by supporters.
I can no longer support #RSL until DLH departs the organization. I just called to cancel my season tickets. Nothing will change unless we speak up. I have been relatively soft spoken about everything going on this year but no longer. #BlackLivesMatter #BlacklivesStillMatter
— I Exist And That’s OK (@softevildrumboi) August 27, 2020
Following the release of The Athletic article, the MLS Players Association called on the MLS to suspend and investigate Hansen.
Statement on Dell Loy Hansen: pic.twitter.com/49gs7Lb4I3
— MLSPA (@MLSPA) August 27, 2020
The MLS quickly released a statement of their own. It stated the MLS has “zero tolerance” for this type of behavior and announced an immediate investigation.
Major League Soccer Statement on Dell Loy Hansen pic.twitter.com/FV7Hqph6q9
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) August 28, 2020
RSL Fans, Media, and Players Speak Out Against Hansen
The more information that’s learned about Hansen, the more the calls for his removal are amplified.
Katherine Tucker, co-founder of The Plastics SG and RSL supporter since 2007, said in an interview with Last Word on Soccer that there was a sense among supporters that there was something deeply wrong at RSL even back when employees were furloughed by Hansen during COVID.
“The night RSL players decided to strike to call attention to the murder of Black people at the hands of police, I was a proud RSL fan for the first time in a while. And then, the next morning, I listened to Dell Loy Hansen’s first interview and that pride left me completely. I’ve reached out to my ticket rep about cancelling my season tickets,” Tucker said.
“As MLS fans, we all need to push for change in this organization. Especially white fans. Not just because we don’t like being associated with a racist, but because it has been the burden of players, staff, and fans of color to either call this out and risk losing jobs and friends OR to quietly accept that this is the way it’s going to be. They deserve better and it is our job to ensure substantive change not just at RSL or in MLS, but in this country. We absolutely must defund the police and divest from all structures which uphold white supremacy. Even when they’ve been built around the things we love. Especially then.”
RSL’s Nedum Onuoha May Leave The Team
Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha, who led an effort to support newly jobless RSL employees during the COVID pandemic, may even leave the team.
“I don’t want to be here because I’m not here to play for someone who isn’t here to support us,” Onuoha told BBC World Service. “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.”
“I’d like to say I’m proud, but I wish it is something that we didn’t have to do.”
Real Salt Lake Media Calling For Removal of Hansen
Writers from The Salt Lake Tribune and RSL Soapbox have called for the removal of Hansen as owner. The hosts of The RSL Show, a Real Salt Lake podcast, had this reaction to Hansen’s comments and accusations:
“I immediately canceled my season tickets and I wanted to punch someone in the face – I was pissed . . . I questioned why we do the show, I questioned why I care, I questioned if I even want to support the team anymore at all . . . My heart and soul has been in this team for many years.”
The full podcast is below.
Is This The End For Dell Loy Hansen As Owner?
The removal of Hansen is probably easier said than done, but not impossible. The MLS Constitution actually includes a process by which the MLS can terminate ownership. It takes a two-thirds majority vote of board, with removal allowed if the owner has failed to act in the best interests of the league.
Also, @MLS does have a process by which they can terminate the ownership interest of a particular individual. I came across this information by happenstance and thought I would pass it along. Seemed interesting, is all. #MLS #RSL pic.twitter.com/0LcA7f82lV
— Miki Turner (@turneresq) August 27, 2020
However, the question is, who would replace Hansen as owner? Ryan Smith, owner of Utah-based Qualtrics, is interested. So is current MLS player Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC.
He needs to sell the team then. I’m involved in a group that’s ready to purchase it. Time for change. https://t.co/ETiM3YUyxr
— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) August 27, 2020
LAFC’s Bob Bradley was the first MLS head coach to add his voice to the chorus saying that Hansen must go, and others are likely to follow.
“There’s enough of a pattern with his leadership that he does not belong in his current role any longer,” Bradley is reported to have said.
Dell Loy Hansen Takes Leave of Absence From All Sport Operations
This evening, it was announced that Hansen would be taking a leave of absence from all RSL, URFC and Monarchs operations during the pendency of the MLS investigations.
Utah Soccer Statement
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) August 29, 2020
What happens next? The RSL Show suggests this is just the tip of the iceberg of the Hansen revelations. The Hansen leave of absence may be indicative of what’s coming next.