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MLS to Investigate RSL Owner Dell Loy Hansen After Allegations of Racism

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2020

In this photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen presents his vision for a new minor league soccer stadium at the Utah State Fairpark meeting with its board, in Salt Lake City. Hansen, the owner of Utah’s Major League Soccer team is offering to build a $13-$17 million stadium at the state fairgrounds that would be home to a minor league team for Real Salt Lake and be part of a broader revitalization of the grounds.  (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Major League Soccer will reportedly investigate Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen following a story from Christopher Kamrani, Sam Stejskal, Paul Tenorio and Meg Linehan of The Athletic that detailed Hansen's history of racism.

The Major League Soccer Players Association released a statement saying, "The allegations in tonight's Athletic story concerning RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen are sickening. The MLSPA calls upon MLS to immediately suspend Hansen and conduct a thorough investigation. If the allegations are substantiated, he must be forced to sell the team."

The Athletic story shared MLS' statement that read, "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. Major League Soccer has zero tolerance for this type of language or conduct and will immediately commence an investigation."

Hansen also owns the USL's Real Monarchs and NWSL's Utah Royals, and the NWSL released a statement saying it will also investigate and calling the allegations "shocking."

NWSL @NWSL

https://t.co/HfEQ8HriRM

NWSLPA @nwsl_players

https://t.co/otUpjFdL26 https://t.co/LA6qnCDH5n

The Athletic story noted Hansen did not speak with RSL players as they decided to sit out Wednesday's game against LAFC as part of the league's protest against police brutality and systemic racism following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

However, he appeared on Salt Lake City radio station X96 and said the players not taking the field was "like somebody stabbed you and you're trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward. … The disrespect is profound to me personally."

He also said the players sitting out "took the wind out of" his sails in terms of a desire to invest more money in the team in the future.

The comments drew plenty of criticism, including some from Toronto FC and U.S. men's national team forward Jozy Altidore and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell:

Jozy Altidore @JozyAltidore

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

Donovan Mitchell @spidadmitchell

WOW... if it’s taken “the wind” out then sell the team... I stand with @realsaltlake players ✊🏾💯 https://t.co/Xym06Lpy8n

The Athletic story also detailed a number of times Hansen was allegedly racist.

Andy Williams, who joined RSL in 2005 as a player and was a scout from 2011 until he was furloughed in April, chronicled times when Hansen used the N-word. He also compared Hansen to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was ousted from the NBA for his own racism.

"That's just how he is," Williams, who is Black, said. "He's a f---ing racist, to be honest. I've been in situations where it's like (former LA Clippers owner) 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."

Williams described one particular incident when he and other members of the team's front office traveled to Dallas in 2016. They came across Kellyn Acosta, a Black FC Dallas player who had scored a goal against RSL, and Williams noted Hansen said the following:

"Waibel said, 'Hey, Dell Loy, this is Kellyn Acosta, one of the guys who scored against us last night.' Kellyn said hello, and the first comment that Dell Loy made was something like, 'Hey Craig, when are we gonna lynch this guy?' Kellyn was right there, he said this right in front of him. I just turned around and walked away, and left the conversation … I just walked away. I couldn't even deal with it."

Acosta's agent at the time, Daren Flitcroft, confirmed the story.

Elsewhere, Aaron Maund, who is Black and a former RSL defender, recalled an incident when he was injured and put his hood up when he was in an elevator with fans as to not be recognized before Hansen came aboard and was racist:

"I scooted onto the elevator, my family is with me and it was a public elevator, a lot of the fans were piling in so I threw my hood on to be a little bit incognito. So I'm kind of standing in the back and Dell Loy came onto the elevator, so I took my hood off and said hello. And he looked back at me and said, 'Oh my God, I thought you were a thug.' And my whole family just whipped their heads around and looked at him, and I just kind of gave them the eyes like, 'He doesn't even know.' 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."

The Athletic story noted Hansen apologized during a second interview on ESPN 700.

It also pointed out the MLS constitution allows the league to remove an owner "on its own initiative if, by a two-thirds majority vote of the board, an operator/investor is determined to have failed to act in the best interests of the league. If so, it must still pay such operator/investor fair market value for its operating rights and ownership interest."