Los Angeles Football Club were in Utah Wednesday for their game against Real Salt Lake, but like nine other teams in MLS, including RSL, and teams in other American pro sports, the players went on strike and didn’t play the game to protest disproportionate violence against Black people at the hands of law enforcement and racial injustice in the United States more generally.
While most teams, including LAFC, publicly gave their support for the strike, one team’s owner, RSL’s Dell Loy Hansen, went on two local radio programs Thursday, first condemning the strike, taking personal umbrage at players refusing to play, firing stadium workers and employees of the club’s charitable foundation in retaliation and failing to recognize why they were taking part in an unprecedented protest in American sports, before later half-heartedly apologizing to the MLS Commissioner — though pointedly not his own players — in what seemed like an attempt to smooth over the roiling controversy he started.
Following Hansen’s second radio interview, a bombshell story in The Athletic laid out a series of allegations of his time as RSL owner in which he openly used racial slurs and other racially insensitive remarks, which led to the league finally announcing they were opening an investigation into Hansen’s conduct.
Players around the league, inside and outside RSL, and in other sports swiftly condemned Hansen Thursday, and during their media availability Friday, LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and Bob Bradley spoke directly about Hansen’s comments and allegations surrounding the Utah businessman.
Here was Kaye’s full response to being asked about Hansen, in which the player condemned RSL’s owner.
It’s not acceptable. For all the progress we’re trying to create as a world, to have someone that has so much power within a sport to think like that just shows that we still have a lot more work to do. It’s unfortunate and it doesn’t make the MLS look good knowing that one of their owners is coming out and saying this and now trying to retract a statement. And people have been saying that all along, they’ve known that this is his stance on certain things so a lot of people were not surprised when it came out.
I just think that if the MLS wants to show that they’re part of this change they need to take swift actions with this guy. It’s unacceptable and it just shows that the old America is still running away with what’s going on in there, that money is just a way of getting people out of situations. I really feel for the RSL players right now because I thanked all of them for for their courage, just before we had taken the photo at half-field up when we decided not to play the game. I just knew that I wanted to get across to them how important it meant to me because a lot of those guys are not Black, and they’re making a tough decision, but the right decision to stand for what’s right. And to have an owner of their club say something like that I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now, I heard that they weren’t even allowed to go to training yesterday.
So it’s just things like this can happen in the world, and as us being part of the sports world we have to understand the influence we have on people, and we have to make sure that the influence is a positive one. So when someone comes out like this, it needs to have swift actions, everyone else has to deal with consequences. So does this guy.
Bradley agreed with his player in unequivocally stating Hansen has no place “in our game.”
“Those remarks are wrong,” Bradley told reporters. “That way of looking at things is wrong. And when we talk about real change, again, understanding what a protest means. If you go back to Colin Kaepernick. There were people that made him out to not love the country. And it was a way of dividing and taking away, understanding why he took a knee and respecting that decision, and knowing that in that moment, he loves his country. I believe that that taking a stand for something that is right is patriotism. And I believe that standing in front of people as a leader and telling lies is not patriotism. So, I think that there’s enough there that we can all see that there’s a pattern and now I don’t believe that there’s a place for that type of leadership and ownership in our game.”
Bradley was asked if the team is planning to play Sunday against the Seattle Sounders and he said they were. Kaye did not indicate the team was planning to go on strike this weekend, saying players had brought unspecified demands to league leaders but that they were told a resolution to those demands would not come by this weekend. For its part, the league announced Friday games would proceed.
After stating Hansen needs to go, Bradley went on to say that the next steps need to be taken on the matter by MLS team owners and league leadership.
“I’m not gonna get into the details of how that needs to be handled,” he said. “The way that situation starts, the responsibility on the rest of the ownership in the league, the responsibility on [MLS Commissioner] Don Garber and others in the league office, that’s where that one starts. I think, again, that there’s enough people that see the way things have gone, having heard these comments and know that there’s no place for that. And so now that statement is strong. I believe that absolutely the majority, if not every single player and coach recognizes that that gets in the way of us as a league moving forward. So that’s the part that we start with and now we see how it gets handled by others.”
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