Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen to sell teams amid reports of racism

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen will sell his soccer teams in the wake of reports that he made racist comments, Major League Soccer said Sunday.

Hansen’s Utah Soccer Holdings includes his MLS club, the Utah Royals of the National Women’s Soccer League and the United Soccer League’s Real Monarchs.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Hansen’s decision. Both MLS and the NWSL had said they were investigating Hansen after a report Friday in The Athletic quoted former employees and others who said Hansen had made racist statements and used a racial slur. The Salt Lake Tribune also reported on comments made by Hansen, who took a leave of absence amid the investigations.

Shortly after the MLS announcement, Hansen apologized in a written statement.

“I recognize that at times I have spoken too quickly, without pausing to consider the feelings or good intentions of others. This is not acceptable and I assume full responsibility for allowing my words to travel unfiltered as to their significance and impact,” he wrote. “I believe that communities are strengthened by diversity. I am truly sorry for offending and being insensitive to the plight of others.”

Major League Soccer will work with Hansen in supporting the sale and transition to new ownership.

“I want to acknowledge Dell Loy Hansen’s significant efforts to build the sport of soccer in the state of Utah and for his commitment to Major League Soccer,” Garber said in a statement.

Hansen said he will work with new ownership during the transition.

“We are fully invested in supporting the transition to new ownership and will work diligently to try to ensure that the club stays within our community,” he said. “We will support the organization and its employees in moving quickly so as to minimally disrupt this season and allow new ownership adequate time to plan for the 2021 season.”

Players for Real Salt Lake and other MLS teams did not take the field for scheduled games on Wednesday night to protest racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The next morning, Hansen criticized the players’ decision to sit out.

‘It’s like someone stabbed you’

“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 a Salt Lake City radio station he owns.

Hansen also suggested the matter might discourage his investment in the teams. The scheduled match at Real Salt Lake’s home stadium on Wednesday was to be the first in MLS this season 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 future games, and would cut as many as 50 jobs as a result.

The comment drew quick rebukes. Former RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell among those who criticized Hansen’s stance.

WATCH | A powerful pause in the sporting world:

Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reflects on a week in sports that saw a united show of solidarity across professional leagues in support of racial justice. 2:48

Following the report late Friday in The Athletic, the MLS Players Association issued a statement calling the allegations “sickening.”

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird reacted to Hansen’s decision to sell the team on Twitter. The league’s Challenge Cup tournament this summer was held at Utah Soccer Holdings training facilities.

“Mr. Hansen’s contributions to the league’s growth and the continued development of soccer are notable, but we agree that the decision is the right one for the future of the Royals,” Baird said.

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Johny Watshon

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