MLS announced on Thursday that it is investigating claims that Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen repeatedly uses racist language in the presence of players and team staff.
The investigative report from the Athletic details separate occasions in which witnesses accuse Hansen of using the N-word, making a reference to lynching and mistaking a player for “a thug.”
MLS: ‘We are deeply concerned’
Shortly after the report, MLS released a statement condemning the alleged language and announcing an investigation.
Major League Soccer Statement on Dell Loy Hansen pic.twitter.com/FV7Hqph6q9
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) August 28, 2020
‘Donald Sterling part 2’
The report details several occasions citing multiple witnesses accusing Hansen of using racist language. Former RSL player turned team scout Andy Williams — a Black man — spoke bluntly on the record with The Athletic about Hansen while comparing him to disgraced former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was blackballed from the NBA after a history of racist behavior.
“He’s a f----ing racist, to be honest,” Williams told the Athletic. “I’ve been in situations where it’s like Donald Sterling. He says something, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, what did he just say?’ It’s Donald Sterling part two. It’s just unbelievable. It’s crazy how he doesn’t see that the stuff that he says affects people.”
History of alleged racist incidents
Williams recounted an alleged 2016 incident in which Hansen asked “when are we gonna lynch this guy?” about an opposing Black player who scored a goal. Another witness backed up Williams’ claim.
Williams recounted a separate incident in which he said Hansen casually used the N-word in a dispute with a team employee.
Williams and an anonymous source accused Hansen of asking RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak and his Black agent Aidy Ward “Is that how you speak African?” during a contract negotiation.
Former RSL defender Aaron Maund accused Hansen of telling him “‘Oh my God, I thought you were a thug” after he recognized him while he was wearing a hoodie on an elevator.
He told The Athletic he didn’t bother to confront Hansen, whom he said made the comment while Maund’s family was with him in the elevator.
“It’s not even worth having that kind of conversation because those kinds of things I had seen, those kinds of microaggressions, I had seen 1,000 times from him,” Maund told The Athletic.
MLSPA: Force Hansen to sell if true
Williams called for Hansen’s removal from MLS. The MLS players association called the report “sickening” in a statement released Thursday evening, backing Williams’ call to force Hansen to sell the team if the report is accurate.
Hansen’s earlier controversy
The report is independent of the controversy that surrounded Hansen earlier Thursday. Hansen drew condemnation from across MLS after criticizing the cancelation of Wednesday’s RSL game as players protested police brutality against Black people.
He called the player walkout disrespectful.
“We’re all sitting here as an organization trying to build support and love around a team that supports the city,” Hansen told Salt Lake City radio station X96 — a station that he owns. “All I can say is they supported other issues nationally. They clearly did not support our city or organization. That’s fairly clear.
“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.”
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