October 21, 2021

Kansas City midfielder LaBonta opens up on ‘unprofessional, hostile, inhumane’ culture with Utah Royals

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After being accused of fostering a toxic environment, former owner Dell Loy Hansen was forced to sell the team

Kansas City midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta has opened up on the toxic culture she and her team-mates experienced in Utah last season, calling it the “most absurd thing I’ve ever been through.”

Following accusations of racism as well as fostering a toxic environment, Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen sold the NWSL team, which relocated to Kansas City ahead of the 2021 season. 

Following her team’s move back to Kansas City, LaBonta has spoken out about some of the many issues she and her team-mated dealt with in Utah.

What was said?

Speaking on the Sam’s Army podcast, LaBonta said: “That last year I was there, because we were there for three seasons, was for sure the most absurd thing I’ve ever been through.

“You had to be there to truly understand but to put it into words, it was the most unprofessional, hostile, inhumane setting. People were treated very poorly. It was so disrespectful.

“We needed to do more in the community because this organization is so focused on being a part of white privilege. And we need to change that and change the narrative.

“We did it the best we could and we probably did it too well because they kicked us out and back to Kansas City.”

LaBonta also spoke out against the club’s former chief business officer Andy Carroll, saying he refused to promote players he didn’t find physically attractive.

“For us, this female has gone over so many obstacles and broken so many boundaries, because you personally don’t think she’s pretty and you won’t market her? That was one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard,” she said.

The midfielder also said former head coach Craig Harrington created a “toxic environment” and forced players to study film during their free time.

“Our head coach maybe made a toxic environment for us, but our team would come together at our apartments and do film on our own,” LaBonta added.

“The fact that we took our own personal time to do film and try to correct how we play to get better as a team, that just shows you how close and how much we respected each other.”

The bigger picture

After Hansen publicly criticised Real Salt Lake players for protesting the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin by refusing to play a match, the owner found himself subject to several reports of fostering a toxic culture. 

Hansen, who owned the MLS side as well as the Royals, sold the latter while MLS took over RSL in January after Hansen failed to find a buyer ahead of a deadline.

The Royals were bought by new owners who moved the team back to Kansas City, where it originally played before moving to Utah in 2017.

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