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Transcript: Nedum Onuoha’s stellar comments on ESPN 700

There is no doubt who the spiritual leader of Real Salt Lake is today.

Real Salt Lake v Minnesota United FC Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Let’s just jump right into this one. This is Nedum Onuoha on ESPN 700. He does not back down on his assertions earlier, despite Dell Loy Hansen’s attempts to walk back his statement earlier in the day.

Listen here. You need to hear his voice. Maybe you can follow along the words, if you want. (Also, a bot translated it, and I think it did a pretty great job! Give it up for the robot.)

ONUOHA: It’s been it’s been tough to be honest. Based on what we were doing yesterday and we had a sense of positivity all around the league to then wake up and see that that was the stance, which he took, I think to say was disappointing would be an understatement.

And that’s probably why he’s probably faced so much backlash over the past few hours. And you know, it’s probably why he decided to come on radio today to try and clean up a little bit.

I fully stand by those. And I think I’m not alone in feeling that way as well, because this is a far bigger thing than the sport itself. And I think what for what happened this morning, though, for whatever he believes he could have had that he could have spoken to us. But instead he went out and we were reading about how he felt about what we did the night before. And he was basically, he was calling us wrong for what we did. But that type of criticism, if we’re, if we’re in this together, we’re in this together. But that was just I was being criticized and he has the biggest platform at this club, because she is the owner of the football club. So to see that was so, so disappointing.

And for me personally, like I say, I have I have my models as people seen over the past few months and if lit is literally not with us. There’s no I have no desire to be here in this space at all because I believe that what we’re fighting for, and what we’re sticking together and studying together for is something which is great for the sport itself.

And if we’ll be if we’re going to be told that we’re wrong for doing so, essentially other say what is the point?

CHECKETTS: So are you in the process name if I’m understanding you correctly of laying the groundwork with some plans to to exit the club right now?

ONUOHA: No, no, no, that’s just not the case at all. Because already to see my teammates to speak about how I feel and see where we see where we go from there. Dell Loy, he just spoke to you and he’s saying he softened his tone and changed and seemed to be coming from a different angle to where he was based on his previous comments which we had all had to read. And it’d be interesting to see what he said there, which was true for what he said, though, which was just to appease people who were criticizing them beforehand.

CHECKETTS: Which I think is very fair and leads to the follow up, what would you like to let’s say you Dell Loy sat down, just the two of you today or tonight? Or in the coming days? What would you What would you hope to hear from him that would allow you to soften your stance because we need them? We need you here. We, in this state in this community, we need people like you voices like you, we can’t afford to lose you. So what would you like to hear from him?

ONUOHA: Just honestly, honestly, to know exactly where he stands with things, and we can talk about our side and we can share information, but our information is out there already. And he said, you know, it’d be good if he sat down, so there’s no miscommunication and so on and so forth. But we’ve had enough time to be able to do that. And I think if he doesn’t understand where we’re coming from in this moment, like yesterday was a tough day for everybody. Because all the fans coming into the game. They were really looking forward to the return to play, being at home. But so were we as players.

We didn’t necessarily want to do that yesterday. But we felt that’s what we had to do in this moment, because we had such a huge platform to try and make a huge statement, which will hopefully bring some level of change going forward. And for people to not understand that. And then unfortunately, like, I’m going to appear very, very critical here. One of the issues which I’ve had in terms of the past month, just in this pandemic, in general, is that everything seems to revolve around money. And when some people who have a lot of money will complain about money, but disregard the bigger picture like the bigger picture of people’s lives, and I can never turn my back on that and solely focused on money.

I think a lot of other people share that same sentiment. So until we can have we have it whereby money can be put to the side so we can talk about bigger picture elements. Then essentially like where we thought like if we sat down all at all I want, myself and everybody else in the club, everyone else from the people who serve you drinks in the stadium for the people who work on the field like we just want honestly, not to say one thing in the press or whatever, then do something else.

We want to be honest and be a club, where we feel everything is being progressive and things are headed in the right direction because from when we do this is this this will be a great place to be playing.

CHECKETTS: I know the locker room is a sacred place. But what have the conversations been like today? And then I want to get to last night in a minute but what are the conversations that have been like today since our since Dell Loy’s comments were made? Not not the comments you made on this space? But this morning? What are the comments or the conversation in like between you and your teammates?

ONUOHA: Well, people are obviously disappointed. Not everybody has been very vocal in saying how disappointed they were because there are obviously a few people who have a stronger opinion than others. But we were disappointed because whatever happened yesterday, even though it negatively affected so many people The fact is, as a club, we felt united in trying to achieve something together. So for them when the top of the tree comes out and says we were wrong for doing so. Where does that leave you as a player? Do you question your decision — well, no, because you’re still 100% behind the movement itself.

But then still here we are being criticized and being threatened, players are losing their jobs, staff will be losing their jobs. And you know, some of the staff came back, who were furloughed, and it’s great to see them back. But there’s so many staff who haven’t even been brought back as well. You know, so it was a really it was a tough thing to read a tough thing to hear. Because other say you don’t start to question like what what exactly is going on here because yesterday we felt that we acted as a club. And then today, we’ve been told that we basically need to be divided.

CHECKETTS: When you when you think about the comments that were made, and I asked you about them when you said quote, I don’t want to be here because I’m not here to play for someone who isn’t here to support us. And then you just reference, Nedum, that you know that some of your teammates are really disappointed but they haven’t been as vocal. would you would you say out loud that maybe some of your other teammates feel the same way you do about maybe not wanting to be here unless certain certain things are said and certain concessions and apologies are made and then in the next, you know, 24 or 48 hours or whatever.

ONUOHA: One thing I appreciate is the fact that my situation is quite different to other people, because I’m not, I’m not from Utah, I’m not from the United States, I can go back to somewhere else. So a lot of my views of things which I can see objectively and not really think about, say that consequences for my life for my life moving forward, like I’m going to try and make as big a difference as I can, but on the field and off the field for the duration of my time, In Utah, and that is straight up simple. And I don’t, I will not have any regrets about that, because I’ve had my career. But for the people, they understand the situation, the situation for them, is the fact that Dell Loy Hanson is their boss. He is in charge of so many people, whether it’s for the football, or whether it’s a Broadway Media, hhe is that person.

And so those guys, whatever he says, or the way that we’re how we behave, people will have to if he says jump, everybody will essentially have to say, how high? But also people will think for themselves and think, well, this isn’t necessarily what I believe in. But in 2020, when you’re in a situation where there’s a pandemic, where jobs aren’t the way that they were a few years ago, you don’t feel you have as big a voice to be able to voice your concerns. So as I say it plays lots of players will probably feel the same way that I do in terms of feeling disappointment.

But I would never expect anyone to be able to come on to a show and say that they’re disappointed because then they’ll feel like they have more to lose. And I think in that case, if I’m going to be the person who represents them and speaks on their behalf, as long as somebody speaks and I think hopefully will be heard.

CHECKETTS: While we’re in this space, how would you articulate what your overall experience in Utah has been like?

ONUOHA: So what I came almost two years ago today, and for the first year and a half, I really love my time there. I think a lot of my time here, as far as the players are playing with the phones in the stands, the state itself like it is a truly, truly brilliant place.

But then as this year turned into a bit of a crisis, I think there’s been a lot of divisiveness there that exists in the space and people are starting to show, unfortunately, their true colors, and I think are set on a reasonable side terms of what I want from the world a lot more from the state, but isn’t necessarily going to be the case everybody will agree.

But some of the ways that people have been disagreeing have been so strong that it kind of made me feel uncomfortable, you know, and that isn’t how I felt for the first 18 months, but then I’ll be honest with you, I’m just relieved that in this moment now, I know exactly what it is. Because I think when things are going well, you can have a sort of warped sense of reality in terms of where you are and what’s going on.

But I see that lots of people who support so many people have reached out to me and reach out to my teammates online based on what happened yesterday and for me beyond that point. But then in the same breath, you can look in comments on posts on social media and there’s a split, 50-50, so the reality of the situation is really, really better than and considering this is. This is sport, which is a luxury and non expectation are like a rite of passage or something very significant in life, if this is how they feel in relation to sport, how they feel about just general life itself. So you still have love. I love the first 18 months, but the last five or six have been really, really trying but overall, like whatever the future, I’ll have a positive experience because the people who have been closest to me, I’ve known have always been strongly allied with what was allied with what I believe in. And I think I believe in being in a better world for everybody, not just people like myself.

CHECKETTS: Before we set you loose, let’s talk about last night. Tell us a story. Paint us a picture. What was it like in the locker room when you guys came together with this idea and what were the conversations like that ultimately led to the execution of your decision to sit out the game last night?

ONUOHA: So realistically it began after Milwaukee decided to boycott their first game in the in the playoffs yesterday. And then the knock on effects was that the next two games are also boycotted and then you start to hear rumblings around the country that are the gains are potentially going to go the same way.

And here we were now as players. And we’re wondering to ourselves, like, the what they’re boycotting against was definitely something that we all believe in. And this is a great opportunity to show solidarity and even strengthen the platform that’s been given by the NBA, who are showing that they’re right behind that team. So we were looking at and we thought maybe the MLS are gonna follow suit and just align themselves with the NBA, which is, which isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world, but they weren’t doing so.

Because players all around the league, all the teams who were going to be playing some of the teams who weren’t as well we have an active dialogue about what we should do, knowing that other sportsmen like ourselves, I taken a stance today on this particular day, and we had to speak to our teams. We were in a place where it seems within general well we can do this we can do this. This is a big moment. We have to do this. We have to do this and we knew as players especially RSL that we were going to have fans in the stadium. And we were, we didn’t want to disappoint them same way that we all wanted to play.

But when it comes down to it sport itself is such a small part of a bigger picture in terms of life, you know, life itself and some of the injustices that go on not just in this country, but all around the world, things which are ultimately a lot more important than sport. So to even have the opportunity to make a stance and have our voices be heard, was something which is very, very hard to walk away from. So we looked up and down the fixture list and the aim was to get Nashville and Orlando to be the first to boycott their game, but that never happened. But then very quickly, we saw the Atlanta-Miami, we’re going to be doing the same and we will all united apart from that first game. We will all united I think the first game if they had the same amount of time that we did to make the decision. Maybe they make more maybe they make a similar decision. But we will united in showing that we together as players because this didn’t come from the league but we as players united and trying to use our voices to try and bring positive change. And we know we affected people. And we’re sorry to those people who were affected, but also affected us because we wanted to play.

There’s talk that that we’ll be fined for not playing and stuff like this. But when it comes down to social, to social justice issues and so on, like, it’s a price that the league is shown that they’re more than willing to pay. We want to be playing on the weekend. But actually yesterday, this is something which definitely had to go ahead.

CHECKETTS: First of all, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you. Okay. And I can’t tell you how hard it was to bring this soccer club to the state. It took a tremendous amount of resources, effort, energy, and it was hard. And when I heard you guys were doing what you were going to do last night, I can’t tell you how proud I was of you. And I want you to know that most people agree with me, not others that would tell you differently. So keep doing what you’re doing and don’t leave. We need you here. We need people like you here man and please reach out to me personally if I can do anything for you, okay.

ONUOHA: Can I can I just say something?So, okay, so all of the fans who are with us, we really appreciate you but even the ones who are against us, we don’t hate you. We just want to try and show you why we’re doing what we’re doing. And for all people who really want to know just ask somebody, and you’ll you’ll figure it out and you see why we’re doing it. And I think if from that point, if you still don’t believe in us, then that’s completely up to you. But I believe that what we are fighting for is something which everybody can believe in. And hopefully in time the more people that do, the more change can come but we appreciate you and we want to be playing at home just the same as you do. We want to have the benefits playing for the 5000 fans because at the end of the day, this is this is what we do and this is this is why we love doing it.