After Real Salt Lake was among the 10 MLS teams whose players followed their NBA counterparts’ lead and decided not to play scheduled games Wednesday in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen said the “disrespect was profound to me, personally” and suggested that he would decrease his level of investment in the club as a result of the players’ protest of systemic racism and social inequality.
“It’s like somebody stabbed you and you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward,” Hansen said, according to a transcript from RSL Soapbox. “That’s what it feels like.”Hansen’s comments were swiftly and strongly condemned by current and former players across the league.
Club legend Nick Rimando, who retired after last season as RSL’s all time appearances leader, wrote on Twitter Thursday that he was “disgusted” by Hansen’s comments:
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
Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, Rimando’s former teammate with the United States men’s national team, called for Hansen to sell the club he became majority owner of seven years ago. Altidore, one of the top earning players in MLS since returning to the U.S. and Canada’s top soccer circuit from the English Premier League five years ago, said he’s “involved in a group that’s ready to purchase” Real Salt Lake, which Forbes valued at $235 million in 2019, 19th out of the 24 MLS teams at the time:
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
Speaking on a local radio station he owns, Hansen — already one of MLS’ most frugal owners — said after Wednesday’s game with LAFC was called off that the players decision had “taken a lot of wind out of my sails on how much I want to invest in the team, buying players and building the team."
Wednesday’s match was limited to 5,000 supporters in RSL’s 20,000-seat Rio Tinto Stadium in suburban Sandy because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But Hansen said that spectators would not be welcomed at future home games this season in response to Wednesday’s match being postponed.
“Monday I start having to cut 40-50 jobs again,” he said. “We would not go through the risk of inviting people back to have that kind of an outcome.”
Hansen also owns the Utah Royals of the National Women’s Soccer League and Real Monarchs, RSL’s second-tier affiliate in the USL.
The fallout continued well into Thursday. Real Salt Lake did not practice at the team’s training facility. English defender Nedum Onuoha told the BBC that he wanted to leave the club.“I don't want to be here,” Onuoha said. “I'm not here to play for someone who isn't here to support us.”
Royals rookie forward Tziarra King joined Onuoha in blasting their boss. “Any player’s hope is to be in an environment where they are fully supported not only as a player, but most importantly as a person,” King wrote on Twitter. “For DLH to take this very real situation for the black community, and try to turn it around and make it about himself is completely unacceptable.”
Later in the day, Hansen walked back his comments during a radio interview.
“I’d like to take a minute to... sincerely apologize to all who felt or heard or believe that I do not see the profound purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement. I do,” Hansen said during a 15-minute spot on KALL 700, a station he owns.
“The players’ intentions were probably misinterpreted on my side. I felt we had a duty to the community. They felt they had a duty to a greater purpose and they acted on that greater purpose. And I can respect them for that.”
In a statement, MLS commissioner Don Garber said Hansen’s original comments “do not reflect the views of MLS.” It did not indicate that the owner would be disciplined in any way.
The NWSL responded shortly after Garber did:
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