Dell Loy Hansen is now taking a leave of absence. Here’s how things snowballed so quickly for RSL’s owner
RSL is still scheduled to practice today and travel to Portland for its game Saturday, a team spokesperson said
SANDY — The uproar all started at about 9:20 a.m. on Thursday, when Dell Loy Hansen decided to go on the radio — on one of the stations his Broadway Media company owns — to express his frustration over a canceled soccer game.
Hard work had gone into welcoming a limited number of fans back to Rio Tinto Stadium safely for a match against Los Angeles FC the night before. Employees were in place, and earning money for the event. Fans had a team to root for in person — one of the only venues in the country able to accomplish it.
But the player boycott of the game interrupted that.
He was critical of his players’ decision, suggesting they should’ve cared more about the local impact than the national story.
Jake Simons, a host for the RSLSHOW Podcast, tweeted as the interview unfolded.
Three minutes later he tweeted Hansen saying the wind had been taken out of his sails about running the team.
It didn’t take long for those comments to spread nationally which led to several prominent athletes, both in MLS and NBA, to respond swiftly.
WOW... if it’s taken “the wind” out then sell the team... I stand with @realsaltlake players ✊🏾💯 https://t.co/Xym06Lpy8n— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) August 27, 2020
He needs to sell the team then. I’m involved in a group that’s ready to purchase it. Time for change. https://t.co/ETiM3YUyxr— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) August 27, 2020
By the end of the day, a damning report about a pattern of alleged racial comments was published by The Athletic, which had the MLS Players Association calling for an immediate suspension of Hansen and MLS announcing it was starting an investigation into the racial comments.
Soon after, the National Women’s Soccer League, of which Utah Royals FC belongs under Hansen’s ownership, announced the same. The USL Championship, of which the Real Monarchs belong, also under Hansen’s ownership, said it would follow whatever conclusions MLS reaches.
On Friday, Utah Soccer LLC, which the three clubs operate under, announced that Hansen will be taking a leave of absence as MLS and the NWSL conduct their investigations.
“Utah Soccer will ensure full cooperation, including seeking to answer any questions the leagues may have about the statements made by Mr. Hansen regarding athlete boycotts and allegations in a resulting article,” the announcement read.
“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 announcement said “the existing Soccer Executive Group at Utah Soccer will assume all management of the organization,” which includes Andy Carroll, who was on the radio with Hansen Thursday morning.
Expressing his opinion about his players standing with other professional athletes in a boycott likely wasn’t going to lead Hansen to be forced to sell RSL by MLS — though signing players in the future will surely be difficult. But, if the allegations in The Athletic are investigated by MLS and proven true, he may indeed be forced out by the league and its owners.
Any forced sell would be made complicated by the fact that he also owns the other teams and the RSL Academy.
Miki Turner, a Seattle Sounders fan and lawyer in Washington, combed through the MLS constitution on Thursday and found a clause that an owner can be forced to sell if a two-thirds majority of owners believe an owner didn’t act in the best interest of the league.
Also, @MLS does have a process by which they can terminate the ownership interest of a particular individual. I came across this information by happenstance and thought I would pass it along. Seemed interesting, is all. #MLS #RSL pic.twitter.com/0LcA7f82lV— Miki Turner (@turneresq) August 27, 2020
Andy Williams, a former player and scout for RSL who was laid off back in April, provided much of the info for The Athletic story. He was the longest-tenured employee at the time of his lay-off, having joined RSL in its initial MLS Expansion Draft. He played with the club from 2005 to 2011, then remained on staff as a scout until this year.
A fan favorite at RSL during his playing days, Williams had a sharp reply to a text message sent from Dell Loy Hansen’s wife Julie to David James that was posted on the KUTV2news Twitter feed Thursday night.
About 24 hours after Hansen’s initial comments on the radio, a team spokesperson said Real Salt Lake was still scheduled to practice Friday and then travel to Portland Saturday for its scheduled match.
According to California soccer reporter Alicia Rodriguez, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley — who coached the United States national team from 2006-2011 — said Friday that Hansen should be ousted as RSL’s owner.
“There’s enough of a pattern with his leadership that he does not belong in his current role any longer,” Rodriguez reported Bradley as saying.
After the swift backlash from his comments on Thursday morning, Hansen went on a different radio station he owned later in the day to try to clarify his comments.
“The players’ intentions were probably misinterpreted on my side. I felt we had a duty to the community and they felt they had a duty to a greater purpose, and they acted on that greater purpose, and I can respect them for that,” said Hansen. “I’m sorry that I didn’t express it more clearly.”
There were many on social media who agreed with his initial criticism of the players for joining the national boycott and not playing the match which 5,000 fans had bought tickets for. But the vocal majority did not — including many season ticket holders who took to Twitter to announce they had or were planning on canceling their season tickets.
As always the #RSL staff is amazing. Scott took care of things and was nothing but a professional. Today sucks.— ryan terry (@messedupRyan) August 28, 2020
- former STH messedupRyan
An RSL fan posted this on a Soapbox story on Facebook. I don't see how the club goes forward with Dell Loy as the owner. pic.twitter.com/vfFVKK6DhO— Lucas Muller (@lucaswmuller) August 28, 2020
#DLHOUT has long been used by RSL fans on Twitter to express frustrations about Hansen, but it was taken to another level throughout the day on Thursday as fans of all three clubs shared anger over him.
Some even changed their avatars to a red circle with white letters that read “DLH Out.”
I will not give @realsaltlake another penny until we have new ownership. DLH is a disgrace. #DLHout— Welker (@fcbeast) August 27, 2020
I can no longer support #RSL until DLH departs the organization. I just called to cancel my season tickets. Nothing will change unless we speak up. I have been relatively soft spoken about everything going on this year but no longer. #BlackLivesMatter #BlacklivesStillMatter— Emperor Palepatine’s New Groove (@emp_palepatine) August 27, 2020
How do we even start to support this club after today? Love the players and all they are standing for, but there is a cancer in the club, and I can't support it until it is gone. #DLHout— Matt (@Lane_3303) August 27, 2020
While only some changed their avatars, many expressed that they will not support the clubs or even the leagues so long as Hansen owns them.
Proud of the actions that @realsaltlake players took yesterday and fully support the team. However, I will not watch another @MLS game until the league removes the current owner. DLH has been a cancer on the franchise and does not deserve our support any longer. #DLHout— Tom Lakey 🇺🇦 🌻 (@Tom_Lakey) August 27, 2020
I stand with athletes and the fight for equality and human rights. @UtahRoyalsFC this STH will never attend or watch another game, or buy another ticket or piece of Royals gear, if he remains with the team.— MV (@mwoo713) August 27, 2020
I love this team but I absolutely cannot support this.
.@UtahRoyalsFC cancelling season tickets until new owner comes in. I support the players but not DLH— Pete (@URFC2023) August 27, 2020
Dell Loy Hansen, you have disrespected me. I have canceled my season tickets. #DLH #DLHout #RSL #blacklivesmatter— Spencer Henderson (@buckingham) August 27, 2020
I a season ticket holder and will no longer support RSL until DLH is out. #DLHout— James (@jncreer) August 27, 2020
Still others expressed strong feelings, even if they didn’t go so far as to say they’ll stop supporting the clubs. Some did call upon MLS commissioner Don Garber and NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird to take action against Hansen.
I stand with the players, not the owner. If the #RSL players won’t play until he goes then I won’t pay until he goes. #DLHout @realsaltlake @MLS— atomicneb (@atomicneb) August 27, 2020
Dear DLH, it's time to sell the team. This Utah soccer fan did not feel let down that I didn't get to see the game last night. I support the players then and now. I did feel let down by your arrogant, self absorbed response. @realsaltlake #RSL #DLHout— Travis Arnold (@ubergusterfan) August 27, 2020
I'm hoping that Utah Royals FC will be part of any #DLHOut. They deserve a lot better to be owned by DLH.— Linh Pham (@questionlp) August 27, 2020
.@thesoccerdon We the fans of #RSL will not stand for the comments made by our teams owner and we demand his immediate removal as owner. #DLHout— ThoughtsOnRSL (@ThoughtsonRSL) August 27, 2020
there is absolutely no space for racist team owners in a league that says they stand with their black players, actions must be taken against dlh #DLHout @nwsl @lisainog— casper (@myxdreamland) August 27, 2020
Hansen said that in the six or so hours between his two radio interviews Real Salt Lake lost $3 million in sponsorship revenue.
The financial hit will take its toll on an organization that already made staffing and salary cuts back in April because of COVID-19.