Under-fire Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has taken a leave of absence from the club and two other professional soccer teams he owns, RSL said in a statement released Friday evening, as MLS investigates claims that Hansen repeatedly used racist language in front of his employees and others.
In an explosive story published Thursday by the Athletic, several former Real Salt Lake staffers, including former chief scout Andy Williams, detailed instances in which they said Hansen made racist comments.
The report came out the same day than Hansen slammed his own RSL players for sitting out Wednesday’s scheduled home match against LAFC in solidarity with athletes across sports who refused to play in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police earlier in the week. The game was one of five MLS contests postponed on Wednesday. Nine MLB, NBA and WNBA games were also called off that day by players in those leagues.
“It’s like somebody stabbed you and you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward,” he said.
Hansen attempted to walk back his comments, and while MLS commissioner Don Garber said they “do not reflect the views of MLS”, it appeared he would escape punishment. But after the Athletic’s report — which contained, among other things, Williams’ claim that Hansen used the N-word in his presence — dropped, the league said it would conduct a full investigation.
The MLS Players Union said in its own statement that “if the allegations are substantiated, [Hansen] must be forced to sell the team.”
Williams compared Hansen to Donald Sterling, the disgraced former owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers who was forced to relinquish control of that team in 2014 after being recorded uttering racial slurs.
In addition to Real Salt Lake, in which Hansen purchased a majority stake seven years ago, the billionaire also owns the Utah Royals of the National Women’s Soccer League and Real Monarchs, RSL’s affiliate in the second-tier USL Championship. The NWSL is also investigating Hansen’s history.
Utah Soccer, the company that oversees all three soccer clubs, said Friday that “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 organization also said that it would “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.”
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