We are witnessing a time in American sports that will go down in history. Since the shooting of Jacob Blake, the players in the WNBA and NBA started a trend around the country: a player lead strike of games. This, of course, has been both praised and criticized on social media, though most owners have seemingly been supporting the players in their efforts. These strikes have moved into the NHL, MLB, MLS and USL, and overall, the response from owners has been positive. There is a large exception to that rule, and his name is Dell Loy Hansen.
Hansen owns NWSL’s Utah Royals, MLS’ Real Salt Lake and USL’s Real Monarchs. Last time out, players of Real Salt Lake and LAFC decided not to play the match out of protest of police brutality and the treatment of Black Americans. This prompted Hansen to say that the players “don’t support local issues” and that he feels “disrespected”. He also said that “the disrespect was profound to me, personally” and that the protests have “taken a lot of wind out of my sails on how much I want to invest in this team”.
On top of that, Rio Tinto Stadium, home of RSL and the Royals, has been allowing a limited capacity of fans to attend matches. While that is a bad idea in its own sense, he has now decided that fans will no longer be in attendance. But not because of the pandemic, oh no, but because of the protests. Hansen said that “we’re not going to be inviting fans back into the stadium, Monday, I have to go back to letting 40-50 players (presumably staff) go”.
Pandemic that has killed 177 thousand Americans and counting? Yeah, let the fans in.
Protest racial injustice? Keep the fans out and we’re furloughing everyone.
Just for reference on the furloughing, Hansen recently purchased a rare coin for $1.3 million.
Hansen, reportedly, has a history of racist comments. According to The Athletic, Craig Waibel, former RSL General Manager, introduced Hansen to Kellyn Acosta. Acosta, a player of African-American descent, scored a goal against RSL the previous night. Waibel said that Hansen went on to say something along the lines of “Hey Craig, when are we gonna lynch this guy?” with Acosta standing there. According to Grant Wahl, an MLS higher up, told him that Hansen was “our Donald Sterling”.
The Players vs. Hansen
MLS and NWSL issued statements in regard to Hansen’s comments, each saying that the league doesn’t agree with what he said. Currently, USL is yet to release a statement. At the time of writing, Hansen remains the owner of the Royals, Monarchs and RSL.
Royals player Tziarra King said on Twitter that “for DLH to take this very real situation for the Black community, and try to turn it around and make it about himself is unacceptable”. For a player of her standing in the NWSL, to take a stand like this is remarkable and inspiring. The sports world should applaud her for making standing against the owner of her franchise.
RSL player Nedum Onuoha also came out against Hansen in an interview with the BBC. “I don’t want to be here because I’m not here to play for someone who isn’t here to support us”. Onuoha also deserves high praise for coming out and standing against the racism spouted by the owner of his team. When staff were furloughed by Hansen at the beginning of the pandemic, Onuoha led the way in paying the staff who were removed from work. Hansen’s real estate enterprises have made more than $1 billion in the past.
To say that these players deserve our respect would be a major understatement.
So, what is to happen to Dell Loy Hansen? The simple answer is that MLS, NWSL and USL should force him to sell his teams. Much like with the former Clippers owner Donald Sterling in the NBA, that should be the outcome. American soccer often preaches that “soccer is for everyone”. It’s time to prove it.