Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League have launched investigations into allegations that team owner Dell Loy Hansen has used racist language in the workplace, the leagues announced on Friday.
Hansen owns MLS’s Real Salt Lake and the NWSL’s Utah Royals FC. Former team employees told The Athletic that Hansen has a history of making racially charged remarks during his tenure as owner.
"We are deeply concerned about the allegations made in a report published this evening concerning language used by and the conduct of Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen. Major League Soccer has zero tolerance for this type of language or conduct and will immediately commence an investigation,” the league said in a statement on Thursday night.
The report detailed several incidents involving Hansen’s alleged use of offensive language. Andy Williams, a former Real Salt Lake player turned scout, said Hansen is a “f---ing racist” and likened him to Donald Sterling, the disgraced former owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, who was forced to sell after he was caught on video making racist remarks.
In one instance, Hansen allegedly used a racial slur twice during a 2014 encounter with one of the team’s equipment managers. Another allegation said Hansen asked his general manager, "When are we gonna lynch this guy?" after Kellyn Acosta, a member of FC Dallas, scored the winning goal against Real Salt Lake.
"The allegations regarding Dell Loy Hansen contained in published reports are shocking and run counter to everything the NWSL stands for. We will immediately begin an investigation, and if these reports are substantiated, take all appropriate actions," the NWSL said in a statement.
Real Salt Lake did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the situation.
Hansen acquired majority control of Real Salt Lake in 2014. He faced widespread criticism earlier this week after he took issue his players’ decision not to play a game on Wednesday night to protest racial injustice following the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake.
In a local radio interview in Utah, Hansen said he felt disrespected by the players’ actions, arguing “they clearly supported national issues, but it's very apparent that they didn't support our local community.”
"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. It just seems that's not a very good path to take," Hansen said.
Hansen later apologized for his remarks, telling the local ESPN radio station in Salt Lake City that his “players' intentions were probably misinterpreted on my side."