SANDY – A public apology from Real Salt Lake Owner Dell Loy Hansen. He’s walking back some of the harsh criticism he had about the players deciding to boycott Wednesday night’s game in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin.
The controversy started Thursday morning when Hansen and RSL Chief Business Officer Andrew Carroll spoke on X96 about the game’s cancellation. Hansen’s initial criticism of the team was quite harsh and it was obvious he took the boycott personally.
The original comments
“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,” Hansen told X96. “The disrespect is profound to me, personally.”
At the time, Hansen said the team would not be inviting guests back to Rio Tinto Stadium, and that he would have to cut 40 to 50 jobs because of it. Hansen said the club wouldn’t risk inviting people back just to have the same outcome they saw Wednesday night.
“All I can say is [the players] supported other issues nationally, they clearly did not support our city or our organization. That’s fairly clear,” he said.
Plus, he hinted he was losing interest in building the team.
Hansen stated, “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.”
Player and fan reaction
These comments infuriated former RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. On Twitter, he posted, “I am disgusted by DLH comments. This is more than a game.”
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
Defender Nedum Onuoha reportedly told the BBC he no longer wanted to play here.
— RSL Soapbox (@rslsoapbox) August 27, 2020
Utah Jazz Guard Donovan Mitchell tweeted that Hansen should sell the team, and former US Men’s National Team member Jozy Altidore posted that he’s involved in a group that’s ready to purchase it.
— Nick Rimando (@NickRimando) August 27, 2020
One fan tells KSL she has been frustrated with Hansen as an owner for several years. She sold off her season tickets and believes the team would be better off with a different owner.
“He truly doesn’t care about the team or the players. This is a financial position for him,” she says.
KSL Sports Contributor Tom Hackett hosted a Facebook Live discussion about Hansen’s comments and while there were some that said they understood Hansen’s frustration as a team owner, the overwhelming majority of the comments sided with the players. Hackett says Hansen has a reputation for being too focused on the bottom line.
“He’s a true businessman, which is, maybe, one of the reasons he’s a billionaire, but he doesn’t have a great reputation with the fanbase,” Hackett says.
Former RSL Spokesman Trey Fitzgerald doesn’t believe Hansen deserves the reputation of a cheapskate. He says Hansen has made a lot of improvement to training grounds, soccer academies and he established the Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman for the Real Monarchs. Fitzgerald says Hansen also brought women’s soccer to Utah with the Utah Royals FC.
Fitzgerald says, “When you look at facilities, teams, employees and community outreach initiatives, he has done a lot.”
However, Fitzgerald says Hansen’s comments on Thursday morning were tone-deaf.
“His comments created, I’m certain, a large disconnect between him and the locker room,” he says.
Hansen did another on-air interview Thursday afternoon, this time on ESPN 700. He told host Spence Checketts he was too focused on how the team would be able to pay for the best team possible.
“We need to have the most economic resources possible to build that team and we should work hard to find those resources,” Hansen said.
However, he acknowledges he didn’t pay close enough attention to the team’s message about police brutality and too much attention on his other staff members and the people who went to the stadium to see the game.
He said, “I think that got in the way of the bigger statement that sports is making with the NBA that I really didn’t take time to focus on. I saw the man in the stands and not the overall movement in sports to say, ‘Enough is enough, and it’s way beyond enough.’”
Despite the apology, MLS is conducting an investigation in Hansen after a scathing article in The Athletic. The authors, which include former RSL staff members, say Hansen has a history of racist comments.
Statement on Dell Loy Hansen: pic.twitter.com/49gs7Lb4I3
— MLSPA (@MLSPA) August 27, 2020
RSL Soapbox says MLS will conduct an immediate investigation.