Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha said he wants to leave the MLS club following owner Dell Loy Hansen’s comments criticising his players for boycotting Wednesday’s fixture amid racial injustice protests.
Five of the six MLS games scheduled midweek were called off following nationwide protests within professional sports in the United States after Jacob Blake – a black man – was repeatedly shot by police in Wisconsin.
RSL’s clash with Los Angeles FC did not go ahead as games across the NBA, MLB and WNBA were called off on Wednesday and Hansen accused his team of disrespect.
“It’s a moment of sadness,” Hansen said on radio station X96 on Thursday. “It’s like somebody stabbed you and you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward. That’s what it feels like. The disrespect is profound to me personally.
“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.”
Wow just wow! I can’t even right now. @realsaltlake locker room, fans, and front office that stand for equality, human rights, and the fight against racism I applaud you. I am disgusted by DLH comments. This is more than a game. https://t.co/PDYsD6hvKK
— Nick Rimando (@NickRimando) August 27, 2020
“We will not be inviting fans back to the stadium in the future,” Hansen added. “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’s comments sparked backlash within the club and across the league, with former Manchester City defender and RSL’s Onuoha telling BBC World Service: “I don’t want to be here because I’m not here to play for someone who isn’t here to support us.
“We are trying to create a bigger conversation but a lot of the people who are in power don’t empathise or sympathise or do anything. They are more concerned with themselves.”
“It didn’t feel right to be playing a game when people are trying to highlight a big conversation and things that are bigger than sport,” the 33-year-old Englishman continued. “I was brought to tears this morning as I was listening to stories of what has happened over the last few days and knowing the owner isn’t in agreement and now seeing this stuff here.
“These are cries for help and for people at the very top to get behind us because that is where the biggest change can come, but we are being left and being criticised. If you want to make a stance, the pushback is massive and MLS players don’t earn enough money to feel that they have enough value to have an opinion and to be able to make change. I’d like to say I’m proud, but I wish it is something that we didn’t have to do.”
He needs to sell the team then. I’m involved in a group that’s ready to purchase it. Time for change. https://t.co/ETiM3YUyxr
— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) August 27, 2020
MLS also responded to Hansen’s comments, with commissioner Don Garber saying in a statement: “I appreciate Dell Loy Hansen’s efforts to build the sport of soccer in Utah. His commitment to MLS, the NWSL and the USL, as well as the game at the youth level, has been significant. However, I strongly disagree with the comments he made today, the way they were expressed, and they do not reflect the views of MLS.
“This is a time for all of us to work together in the pursuit of racial equality and social justice. Major League Soccer and all of its clubs will continue to support and create initiatives that enact real change.”
MLS is also investigating allegations that Hansen has a history of making racially charged remarks in his time as owner of RSL.
“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,” the league said. “Major League Soccer has zero tolerance for this type of language or conduct and will immediately commence an investigation.”
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