London (AFP) – Real Salt Lake City defender Nedum Onuoha said he was “brought to tears” and wanted to leave the club after its owner criticised players for boycotting a game over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Real and visiting team Los Angeles FC decided not to play about an hour before their scheduled kickoff on Wednesday, following the lead of other MLS squads as well as the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and several Major League Baseball teams.
The boycotts were in protest at police shootings of African-Americans, including that of Blake. But RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen said he felt “disrespected” by the decision not to play.
“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,” Onuoha told the 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.”
Onuoha, 33, a former England Under-21 international, moved to Major League Soccer in 2018 after spells at Manchester City, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers.
Hansen told radio station KXRK: “It’s (boycott) like someone stabbed you and then you’re trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward,” adding “the disrespect was profound to me personally”.
The MLS condemned the remarks and also said it was launching an investigation into alleged racist comments by Hansen, following a report by The Athletic quoting former RSL head scout Andy Williams.
“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,” an MLS statement said.
“Major League Soccer has zero tolerance for this type of language or conduct and will immediately commence an investigation.”
Onuoha, who in June said he feared and distrusted the US police, said calling off Wednesday’s game was the right thing to do when bigger issues were in play.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
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