Soccer

MLS, NWSL owner taking leave of absence following racially insensitive comments

Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen is taking a leave of absence following a report that he made racially insensitive comments and used a racial slur.

Dell Loy Hansen reportedly used racist slur, criticized players for walking out on games

Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen took a leave of absence Friday after he criticized player protests in the sports world against racial injustice. (Rick Bowmer/The Associated Press)

Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen is taking a leave of absence following a report that he made racially insensitive comments and used a racial slur.

Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League are conducting investigations following the report Thursday in The Athletic.

"As an organization, our priority is our employees, our teams, our players, and our fans, and Mr. Hansen in particular cares deeply for each of these individuals who works so hard to make Utah Soccer the success that it is," the team said in a statement Friday night. "During the pendency of these investigations, and until further notice, Mr. Hansen will be taking a leave of absence from all RSL, URFC, and Monarchs operations. The existing Soccer Executive Group at Utah Soccer will assume all management of the organization."

The report of Hansen's behaviour came as he drew criticism for comments on a local radio show after Real Salt Lake players protested racial injustice by not taking the field for a match.

"It's like someone stabbed you and then you're trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward. That's what it feels like. The disrespect was profound to me, personally," Hansen said Thursday morning on X96, a Salt Lake City radio station he owns.

Hansen also suggested the matter might discourage his investment in the teams.

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Players from Real Salt Lake, Hansen's Major League Soccer club, and LAFC decided not to play their match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night. It was one of five MLS matches called off as athletes reacted to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Hansen's radio comments drew swift rebukes.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber issued a statement that said: "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."

The Utah Royals, part of the National Women's Soccer League, had recently played in the league's Challenge Cup tournament, which took place on team property in Utah. Hansen also owns the USL's Real Monarchs.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird also issued a statement.

"Dell Loy Hansen's remarks regarding player protests are in conflict with the values of the NWSL," Baird said. "Black Live Matter, racism in this country is real, and we must continue the critically important work of addressing racial injustice in our country."

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But after The Athletic website published a story quoting former employees and others who said Hansen had made a number of racially insensitive comments and used a racial slur, both leagues said they would conduct investigations.

The MLS Players Association issued a statement calling the allegations "sickening."

The scheduled MLS match at Rio Tinto on Wednesday was the first to include fans, although at a reduced capacity of about 5,000. Hansen suggested on the radio show that he would not be allowing fans at the games in the future, and would cut as many as 50 jobs as a result.

Former goalkeeper Nick Rimando and Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell were among those that criticized Hansen's stance.

Hansen addressed his own comments later in the day on another radio station he owns, ESPN700, saying he had since looked more closely at the issue and apologized if fans thought his statement meant he did not care about the movement to end social injustice.

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