With negotiations between MLS and the MLS Players Union on a new collective bargaining agreement at a critical juncture, the league announced on Friday that Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen has been fined for comments related to the ongoing talks.
A source told ESPN FC that the amount is $150,000, which is "by far" the largest fine in MLS history.
In an interview last Wednesday with Salt Lake City-based radio station ESPN 700, which is owned by RSL, Hansen said that discussions regarding free agency were "one of those real waste-of-time conversations." Hansen later characterized the talks related to free agency as a "go-nowhere conversation."
MLS and the MLSPU have been engaged in talks for several months, with the league against any form of free agency since it is at odds with its single-entity structure. The union has threatened to go on strike over the issue. The other outstanding issues are minimum salaries and the amount of the salary cap.
"The perennial issue [from the players] is that, 'We want free agency,' but that can't exist where everyone's employed by the same employer," said Hansen, in reference to the single-entity system used by MLS. "How do you have free agency when you're going to go talk to yourself at the next employer?"
The league announced in a news release on Friday that Hansen had been fined as a result of his statements.
"The comments made by Mr. Hansen are not permitted under the League's constitution," said MLS commissioner Don Garber. "We are engaged in constructive negotiations with our players and such comments are not appropriate nor helpful to the negotiations."
Hansen said in the same interview that he receives a weekly email from Garber threatening a $250,000 fine if owners say too much about the CBA negotiations.
The source also confirmed an earlier Washington Post report that negotiations are scheduled to resume on Sunday at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in Washington, D.C.., and should last until the middle of the week.
At that point, it will likely be known if MLS will be subject to the first work stoppage in the history of the league.