Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen was critical of the decision on Wednesday among MLS players around the league to not play 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 Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League have launched investigations on the matter.
Hansen initially planned to take a leave of absence, but MLS announced Sunday that Hansen will sell his Utah Soccer holdings, which include Real Salt Lake (MLS), Utah Royals FC (NWSL) and the Real Monarchs (USL).
Here's part of the statement from MLS commissioner Don Garber:
MLS will work with Mr. Hansen on supporting the sale efforts for the company and will work closely with the club's executive staff to support the operations of the team during the transition period. I want to acknowledge Dell Loy Hansen's significant efforts to build the sport of soccer in the state of Utah and for his commitment to Major League Soccer.
During an interview on a radio station he owns, Hansen compared the players' decision to protest 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."
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."
The Black Players of the NWSL released a statement on Saturday night condemning Hansen's "disgraceful" comments.
We stand with our Black players. pic.twitter.com/BSszddWCMU— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) August 30, 2020
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 speak out about Hansen's comments.
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
Wow just wow! I can’t even right now. @realsaltlake locker room, fans, and front office that stand for equality, human rights, and the fight against racism I applaud you. I am disgusted by DLH comments. This is more than a game. https://t.co/PDYsD6hvKK— Nick Rimando (@NickRimando) August 27, 2020
WOW... if it’s taken “the wind” out then sell the team... I stand with @realsaltlake players ✊🏾💯 https://t.co/Xym06Lpy8n— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) August 27, 2020
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."