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MLS launches investigation into RSL owner over alleged history of racism

dell loy hansen rsl real salt lake getty (1).jpg
SANDY, UT - JULY 24: Owners of Real Salt Lake Dave Checketts (R) and Dell Loy Hansen (L) talk before a game against Chivas USA at an MLS soccer game July 24, 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

UPDATE (August 28, 2020) — Dell Loy Hansen will take a leave of absence from all Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals FC and Real Monarchs operations pending the results of an investigation into allegations of racism.

ORIGINAL REPORT (August 27)

The Major League Soccer Players Association called for the immediate suspension of Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen and, if accusations about racist language are verified, wants him forced to sell the team. Major League Soccer issued a statement Thursday evening stating that it had indeed launched an investigation.

MLS said in a statement from commissioner Don Garber:

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.

Controversy first erupted Thursday morning after Hasen spoke on a Salt Lake City radio show and said he felt betrayed by RSL players' decision to boycott Wednesday night's games. He said he felt personally betrayed and felt it also betrayed the community, including fans who traveled to attend the event. But beyond that controversy, a story about his behavior and speech in The Athletic, brought clear condemnation from the player's union and MLS.

"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," Hansen said. The back-stabbing language drew a reprimand for Hansen from MLS commissioner Don Garber. On a separate interview with ESPN 700 Thursday, Hansen apologized for his earlier comments and said he made an error when representing the intentions of the boycott. Audio of that interview is available at the station's website.

The Athletic story however, may cause much more than a reprimand for Hansen and could host him ownership in the team. The article describes a history of racial abuse from Hansen including making a "joke" about lynching a player, the use of the "N-word" on two occasions and describing a soccer player wearing a hoodie as a "thug."

NBA players started the boycott that included all major league sports when the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to take the court after a black man was shot in Wisconsin, setting off protests, sometimes violent, that included another man shooting and killing two people and injuring a third. Some MLS games continued Wednesday night, but Real Salt Lake players didn't want to play in Wednesday games, along with other teams in the league. Some Major League Baseball teams also decided not to play and NHL teams joined, forgoing games Thursday.

The Utah Jazz and other NBA teams decided not to play Wednesday, and Jazz player Donovan Mitchell said in a tweet, in response to some of Hansen's words, that he should sell the team. A scenario that looked possible by Thursday afternoon. Several groups had made public statements about purchasing the team that has a stadium in Sandy as well as player development facilities.

"Obviously, there’s a profound disappointment that the spirit that is Real was abandoned last night," Hansen said to X96. Hansen's comments prompted a response from Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell who responded that Hansen should sell the team. The YouTube video of the four hour show that included Hansen was removed from its page Thursday. The full transcript of the X96 interview is available at fan site RSLSoapBox.

The MLS Players Association issued the following statement:

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.

RSL defender Nedum Onuoha said he doesn't want to play for RSL, but will continue to do so because of his loyalty to his teammates. RSL is scheduled to play Portland Saturday night.

Jozy Altidore, who currently plays in the MLS but also a fixture for Team USA, said he is involved in a group that is ready to buy the team. "Time for a change," he said.

In response to Donovan Mitchell's tweet and a call for him to buy the team, business owner Ryan Smith indicated he was ready, "I’m in.... they got my number." Andy Larson, a beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, tweeted that he believes the Larry H. Miller group, that owns the Utah Jazz, was also ready to step in. To read more about possible new owners, click here.

Hansen is the founder and CEO of the Wasatch Group that owns Broadway Media that owns both ESPN 700 and X96. His wife, Julie, spoke out in defense of her husband on Thursday night in text messages to 2News sports anchor David James. She wrote:

Hi David! It’s Julie Aiken Hansen. Dell Loy’s wife. I just want you to know that Dell Loy does not have a racist bone in his body. No one supports equality more than this man. (He actually read and gave out “The New Jim Crow” book in support of Black Lives Matter.
Today, he just wanted to apologize to the fans, the employees and vendors who worked so hard and were sorely disappointed. Very disheartening.
Dell Loy donates millions every year to lift people up. In fact, he has donated over $150,000(in the last few years) to a small rural village in Malawi, Africa. All to lift mankind (all black) and give hope to millions. He brought in a women’s league to promote women and he built them a locker room and training facility equal to the men.
People so easily want to jump on the hate bandwagon. But this man is full of love and generosity. He is colorful as you know.
But he simply does not warrant this. Judge him by his actions. And you will know his heart.
-Julie Hansen-"