Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen was critical of the decision on Wednesday among MLS players around the league to not play their scheduled games in protest of racial injustice, specifically the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who police shot seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday. During an interview on a radio station he owns, he compared the players’ decision to being stabbed, and said it was disrespectful to the local community.
“[T]hey clearly supported national issues, but it’s very apparent that they didn’t support our local community,” Hansen said, per ESPN. “[T]here’s a profound disappointment that the spirit that is Real was abandoned last night. … Obviously, the importance of bringing community together during COVID was not respected.”
Hansen not only owns the local MLS franchise, but also Utah Royals FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. He continued on, saying that the walkout was “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.”
The owner also threatened to pull his money out of the club and fire more employees from his stadium as a consequence of what happened Wednesday. Rio Tinto Stadium had its capacity reduced to 5,000 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the owner states he brought back workers in response to the return of fans.
“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,” Hansen said.
“We will not be inviting fans back to the stadium in the future, so tomorrow I start cutting 40 to 50 jobs again.”
Players around the league and from other sports responded to these comments. Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore, retired MLS keeper Nick Rimando and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell were among the sports figures to post something on Twitter about it.
Perhaps most salient are the comments coming from a current player on the team, and the current commissioner of the league.
Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha expressed his frustration in an interview he gave with BBC World Service, saying “I don’t want to be here because I’m not here to play for someone who isn’t here to support us. We are trying to create a bigger conversation but a lot of the people who are in power don’t [empathize] or [sympathize] or do anything. They are more concerned with themselves.”
A statement from MLS commissioner Don Garber was released through the league’s PR Twitter account:
“I appreciate Dell Loy Hansen’s efforts to build the sport of soccer in Utah. His commitment to MLS, the NWSL and the USL, as well as the game at the youth level, has been significant. However, I strongly disagree with the comments he made today and the way they were expressed. They do not reflect the views of MLS.
“This is a time for all of us to work together in the pursuit of racial equality and social justice. Major League Soccer and all of its clubs will continue to support and create initiatives that enact real change.”
Lisa Baird, NWSL commissioner released the following statement through the league’s Twitter account:
“Dell Loy Hansen’s remarks regarding player protests are in conflict with the values of the NWSL. Black Lives Matter, racism in this country is real, and we all must continue the critically important work of addressing racial injustice in our country.”