These coaches actually thought these were the best methods for improving players’ skills?
“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.”
The report includes a previously undisclosed revelation as to the manner of Racing Louisville’s firing of Christy Holly as manager back in August 2021. The report details how Holly called a player, identified as Erin Simon, in for a film session, stating he would touch her “for every pass” she made a mistake on. (ESPN’s policy is to not publicly identify victims of abuse, but Simon, through a spokesperson, agreed to be identified.)
Holly then proceeded to put his hand “down her pants and up her shirt.” Simon would try to “tightly cross her legs and push him away, laughing to avoid angering him,” adds the report, stating that when her teammate picked her up to drive home, Simon broke down crying.
Holly was later fired for cause, though the reason for his firing wasn’t publicly disclosed.
The investigation was initiated following a report in The Athletic in 2021 that detailed allegations of sexual harassment and coercion from 2015 made against former Portland Thorns manager Paul Riley. Former Thorns players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly alleged that Riley invited both players back to his apartment and asked them to kiss each other in exchange for getting the team out of a conditioning drill the next day, as well as drinking with players and sending lewd photos to Shim.
The Thorns fired Riley following an investigation, though they failed to follow up on additional allegations from Farrelly that included having a sexual relationship with him. The allegations against Riley were by no means unique.
The abuse by coaches wasn’t always sexual in nature, the report found, with former Chicago Red Stars manager Rory Dames among those found to have verbally and emotionally abused players.
“We heard report after report of relentless, degrading tirades; manipulation that was about power, not improving performance; and retaliation against those who attempted to come forward,” the report read.
Oh, and the teams always were cooperating, cuz money, right?
The report found that three organizations – the Chicago Red Stars, the Portland Thorns and Racing Louisville – didn’t fully cooperate with the Yates investigation, despite public statements to the contrary.
“The Portland Thorns interfered with our access to relevant witnesses and raised specious legal arguments in an attempt to impede our use of relevant documents,” the report read. “Racing Louisville FC refused to produce documents concerning Christy Holly and would not permit witnesses (even former employees) to answer relevant questions regarding Holly’s tenure, citing non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements it signed with Holly. The Chicago Red Stars unnecessarily delayed the production of relevant documents over the course of nearly nine months.”
The report added that the Thorns tried to claim that certain information, including the Thorns’ 2015 report of their investigation into Riley, was protected by attorney-client privilege or common interest privilege “despite evidence to the contrary.” The Thorns only relented after a period of months after the initial requests by investigators.