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'RSL Nation' shares message amid MLS investigation into Dell Loy Hansen

Posted at 11:07 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 04:24:29-04

RSL fans have been closely following Thursday's fallout with the team, particularly with owner Dell Loy Hansen, following Wednesday's game postponement to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

It's proven to be a tough topic for fans, as people with varying opinions voice their thoughts on different social media fan pages and groups.

RSL Nation, one of the largest RSL fan pages on Facebook, is a place for the die-hards who live and breathe Real Salt Lake soccer.

Cousins Adel Lelo and Bakir Hamza run the page, as well as the podcast ScarfLife.

Lelo said RSL Nation is, "supposed to be a group away from the rest of real life."

But in the last 24 hours, 'real life' has consumed the sports world. Lelo and Hamza have had a lot to share on the RSL Nation page-- links to articles, radio interviews and videos.

It started with players calling off Wednesday night's game against LAFC, to stand in solidarity with teams in other leagues as they protested the shooting of Jacob Blake.

At the time, many fans had already arrived for the game, and expressed disappointment as they left.

Members of both teams gathered on the field wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts shortly before announcing the postponement, and later shared a message of fighting for racial equality.

The next morning, RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen made controversial comments in a radio interview, saying the protest took, "a lot of wind out of my sails on how much I want to invest in the team -- buying players and building the team."

He also said he felt he was stabbed in the back.

The comments led to immediate backlash, including from athletes and RSL employees.

Hansen later apologized on a second radio show, but things quickly snowballed into an investigation launched by Major League Soccer, of racist comments allegedly made by Hansen.

Lelo and Hamza talked about how fans have shared differing opinions of the day's events.

A quick look online shows that some share the same opinions Hansen gave during the morning radio interview, of feeling disappointed that the team decided not to play.

Others think he was way out of line with what he said, and have called for him to step away from owning the team. Fans argued with each other in comment threads.

"To say it got out of hand pretty quickly would probably be an understatement, as far as, just the flow of comments," Hamza said.

Usually, these aren't topics that Hamza and Lelo talk about, on either RSL Nation or on their ScarfLife podcast.

But as RSL players bring this to the forefront, they, too, are talking about it with their community. They recorded a new podcast episode Thursday evening that focused solely on the whole situation.

Lelo said they are, "trying to foster, if at all possible, is a culture of: We do not have to agree on everything, but we can respect each other, and have a respectable and respectful conversation with each other."

Hamza said he is seeing conversation taking place with the comments on the RSL Nation page.

"Providing that venue for what's a very necessary conversation, in our opinion, it's kind of cool and a little bit empowering," he said. "Change is never a clean process, and I think the messiness of it is reflective in those comments."

The two cousins said that the RSL community supports marching toward the same thing: Racial and social equality. They described how it seems the overwhelming majority of people on their page support the players in the boycott, and the cause-at-hand.

Lelo said a lot of people have expressed opinions on the timing of the game cancellation-- It was called off after many fans already arrived, very close to the start of the game. Plus, it was the first game with fans in the stand since the start of COVID-19.

He said he thinks some people would have appreciated a little more heads up.

Lelo also talked about how people seem to agree on where they need to get as a society, but disagree on how to get there.

"All going to same place, we just can't figure out how to get there," he said.

As they watch fans reflect upon the recent events and engage in discussion, Hamza shared a message: Remember to be kind to each other.

They expressed hope that people can find a way to come together under one team, just as they always have.

"We as soccer fans, as a community, do not have much control over what has already happened," Lelo said. "We do, however, have a lot of control of how we react-- not just to the news, but also how we react to each other."

Lelo said he believes people will figure out the differences between them, and they can't wait to get back to Rio Tinto Stadium with all 20,000 people.

"We are absolutely in support of the players, the club, and the RSL Nation," Lelo said. "And we are positive we will get to where we are going."