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Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen to sell team amid racism allegations

Jozy Altidore and JJ Watt among those interested in buying MLS franchise.

1 September 2020 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Hansen ‘truly sorry’ after insensitive comments prompted calls to step down
  • Sale would also include Salt Lake City’s NWSL and USL teams
  • Utah Jazz owners and Qualtrics co-founder also express interest in takeover

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen will sell his professional soccer teams after reports that he made racist comments to and in front of employees. 

Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) launched investigations into Hansen after a report in The Athletic quoted former employees stating that the American businessman had repeatedly made racially insensitive comments.

The Athletic article came after Hansen took to a local radio show to criticise his own Real Salt Lake players, who joined athletes across the US in refusing to play a scheduled game against LAFC on 26th August in protest against racial injustice following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. 

Hansen, who took a leave of absence amid the investigations, confirmed in a statement on 30th August that he is now seeking to sell Utah Soccer Holdings, which in addition to Real Salt Lake also owns the NWSL’s Utah Royals and United Soccer League (USL) team Real Monarchs.

‘I recognise that at times I have spoken too quickly, without pausing to consider the feelings or good intentions of others,’ the statement read. ‘This is not acceptable and I assume full responsibility for allowing my words to travel unfiltered as to their significance and impact.

‘I believe that communities are strengthened by diversity. I am truly sorry for offending and being insensitive to the plight of others. I seek to do better and commit to supporting and improving diversity and inclusion in my own community going forward.

‘After deep consideration and soul-searching, my wife Julie and I agree that the best way forward for the Real Salt Lake family is to assume new ownership and a refreshed vision. 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.’

MLS commissioner Don Garber, who had strongly opposed the comments made by Hansen in relation to the postponement of Real Salt Lake’s game against LAFC, said the league has ‘been informed’ of the Wasatch Group founder’s intention to sell.

‘MLS will work with Mr Hansen on supporting the sale efforts for the company and will work closely with the club’s executive staff to support the operations of the team during the transition period,’ Garber added in a statement.

‘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.’

Hansen became majority owner of Real Salt Lake in 2013, taking over from founder Dave Checketts. News of his plans to sell has already prompted expressions of interest from a number of suitors.

US national team star Jozy Altidore was the first to put his name forward, writing on Twitter that he is ‘involved in a group’ ready to purchase the team. 

Ryan Smith, the co-founder and chief executive of software company Qualtrics, also suggested that he has an interest in buying the franchise, tweeting: ‘I’m in… they got my number’. 

Meanwhile, National Football League (NFL) player JJ Watt also took to Twitter to say that he is ‘genuinely interested’ in Real Salt Lake and the Royals. 

Elsewhere, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported that the Larry H Miller Sports Group, which owns the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Utah Jazz, is also interested in buying the teams.

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