MLS commissioner Don Gerber revealed Sunday that mounting criticism of Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen’s statements about his players protesting the police shooting of a Black man will see him sell his control of the team. Real Salt Lake was one of several MLS teams to refuse play last week after the Milwaukee Bucks sparked direct action among major sports in North America when they protested play following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Washington.
According to The Athletic, Hansen then appeared on a radio program and criticized his players and their decision to protest, drawing immediate fire from fans across MLS and the players themselves.
Speaking to Salt Lake City radio station X96, one of several Utah radio stations that Hansen owns, the real estate magnate described the players’ decision not to play as feeling “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.”
“We’re all sitting here at an organization trying to build support and love around a team that supports the city. All I can say is they supported other issues nationally,” said Hansen. “They clearly did not support our city or organization. That’s fairly clear.”
Outrage quickly followed the comments, which were deleted from the station’s YouTube page but quickly spread among soccer fans. The team’s account on social media continued to show support to players and issued statements of diversity and inclusion despite its owners comments.
Real Salt Lake issued a statement about the MLS investigation, and Hansen took a leave of absence from the team as more reports of his past racist statements and behavior were reported out.
On Sunday, Gerber told reporters that Hansen would sell Real Salt Lake, with the MLS issuing a statement shortly thereafter.
— Alex Vejar (@AlexVReporting) August 30, 2020
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) August 30, 2020
Hansen was one of the rare owners who spoke publicly to criticize players as they took direct action last week. Most other teams, at least publicly, have shown support for players who have taken action in an unprecedented way across pro sports. It seems clear that Hansen’s dissent cost him control of his team, but judging how swift players were to criticize him in the wake of his own comments, perhaps it’s best for everyone that he move on to other ventures.