Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has decided that he’s the real victim of the saga that unfolded across American sports on Wednesday. “The disrespect is profound to me personally,” he said of his players’ decision to sit out.
Hansen made the comments in an ill-advised radio interview where he whined about the players’ strikes and said they would somehow force him to lay off employees and sign crappier players. The interview, which took place on a local Utah radio station, was transcribed in full by RSL Soapbox.
Hansen is an ultra-wealthy real estate investor who bought the Major League Soccer team in 2013 from former Knicks president Dave Checketts. He also owns the Utah Royals of the NWSL.
RSL decided to sit out a home game against Los Angeles, following a wave of player strikes across the country on Thursday. (Its opponent, LAFC, had already decided before the game that it wouldn’t play either.)
The players were protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot in the back by police in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Bucks abruptly decided to sit out their Thursday afternoon NBA playoff game against the Orlando Magic, and teams across the country quickly joined them in solidarity.
The billionaires who run American sports have mostly been cautious, staying quiet or issuing statements tepidly supporting their players. Not Hansen, who viewed the loss of a single regular-season MLS game as a serious personal attack.
“It’s a moment of sadness,” Hansen said, not about the police shooting of Blake but again, about the postponement of an MLS game. “It’s like somebody stabbed you and you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward.” The root of Hansen’s whining is that he had fans in the stadium despite the coronavirus pandemic, and those fans didn’t get to see the game.
“We will not be inviting fans back to the stadium in the future,” Hansen said. “Monday, I start having to cut 40, 50 jobs again. We would not go through the risk of inviting people back to have that kind of an outcome.” Hansen is referring to dozens of employees who had been furloughed while he couldn’t host fans; Wednesday was supposed to be the first time, with a maximum capacity of 5,000 fans.
(Hansen frequently spends millions of dollars on rare coins. He is a notorious blowhard who has by all accounts mismanaged the team into the ground.)
His rant quickly devolved into a meltdown about cancel culture and so-called “Blue Lives.”
“I’m very, very supportive of an inclusive, fairly liberal agenda,” Hansen said. “Maybe that agenda has gotten so far that we’re punishing all sides of society who would love to support an inclusive society. But then when you do that, the fact that saying, because maybe you’re so accommodating, or you’re caring, that you can be easily slapped.”
“Then when it says, there’s another issue in society, why don’t we punish you? …. We’ll have to lay people off from our foundation today. We’ll have to lay people off from Levy, our food, Real Food. The implications become profound. We don’t know if players will go to Portland [for Saturday’s scheduled game]. We don’t know that… All I can say is they supported other issues nationally; they clearly did not support our city or our organization.”
Hansen should not be hosting fans in the first place because of the pandemic, but setting that aside, an unprecedented protest is no reason to lay off hourly workers. He whined about the players “punishing” low-wage employees; he is the one doing that.
The rant continued in Trumpian syntax. “They say, ’can we bring our Blue Lives flag?’ We’re not trying to stick the needle in the eye of everyone and point that,” Hansen said before insisting his players should shut up. “We think we should be the place where people quietly observe respect and understand our differences.”
Hansen ended what was largely an incoherent, emotional rant with another threat: He’d tank the team. “It’s taken a lot of wind out of my sails what effort I want to put into recruiting players and building a great team,” he said. “It just seems that’s not a very good path to take.”
RSL players and other Utah sports figures quickly responded. “I am disgusted by DLH comments,” former longtime MLS goalie Nick Rimando said.
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