A report published Monday detailed “systemic” verbal abuse and sexual misconduct by coaches at the best levels of girls’s soccer in the US, and located that leaders in the US Soccer Federation, the National Women’s Soccer League and throughout American soccer had didn’t act through the years on reports from players.
The report was commissioned by U.S. Soccer, which asked Sally Q. Yates, a former U.S. deputy attorney general, and the law firm King & Spalding to steer an investigation after news media reports documented accusations of sexual and verbal abuse against N.W.S.L. coaches.
The report focuses on three coaches — Christy Holly, Paul Riley and Rory Dames — highlighting a history of sexual misconduct allegations against them and executives’ failure to analyze and act on the accusations. It also warned that girls face abuse in youth soccer.
Riley and Dames didn’t reply to requests for comment Monday, and Holly declined to comment. Holly spoke with investigators and denied some, but not all, of the claims made against him. Through his lawyer, Dames declined to talk with investigators. Riley agreed to supply written responses but never did.
Listed below are six takeaways from the report:
Holly was fired because the coach of Racing Louisville F.C. last 12 months, in the course of the team’s inaugural season, with minimal public explanation from the team. While accusations against Riley and Dames had been detailed in news media reports, the accusations against Holly weren’t publicly known.
The report found that Holly’s misconduct while coaching Louisville included sexual contact, inappropriate text messages, abuse of power and retaliation. In a single instance, Holly invited a player to his home to look at game film but as an alternative masturbated in front of her and showed her pornography. While watching game film with the player on a separate occasion, Holly groped the player’s breasts and genitals each time the film showed she had made a mistake.
Holly also sent the player nude pictures of himself and asked her to send sexual pictures of herself to him, in line with the report. The player said that she felt “guilted” and “forced” to send photos. The player told investigators that “Holly continually reminded her to ‘loosen up,’ telling her that having ‘fun’ with him would improve her performance on the sector.”
One other narrative within the report centers on Paul Riley, who was fired from the North Carolina Courage last 12 months. The report found that Riley had “leveraged his position” to coerce not less than three players into sexual relationships.
“Paul Riley’s abuse was prolonged and wide-ranging,” the report said. “It spanned multiple leagues, teams and players. It included emotional misconduct, abuse of power and sexual misconduct.”
One player said Riley made sexual advances toward her on several occasions. In a single instance, the player said, Riley asked her to look at game film in his hotel room. When the player arrived at his room, she said, Riley answered the door wearing only underwear and told her to get on the bed. The player said she left once she realized that there was no game film on the tv.
“I just didn’t feel protected,” the player said. “I didn’t enjoy playing. It was a nasty situation.”
The report also details accusations against Rory Dames, who resigned from the Chicago Red Stars last 12 months and was also coach of the Chicago Eclipse Select youth soccer team. It found that he created a “sexualized team environment” on the youth club that “crossed the road to sexual relationships in multiple cases, though those relationships can have begun after the age of consent.” It also said that he verbally abused his players and that he joked in regards to the age of consent for sexual intercourse.
One player who played for Dames on the Eclipse team said that on one occasion, Dames offered her a ride home from practice and asked her questions on sex. The player said that Dames “wouldn’t take me home until I answered the questions.”
The report also said that it was not unusual for Dames to spend time alone with girls from youth teams without one other adult present, including of their childhood bedrooms.
Lack of oversight
The report also detailed how allegations of abuse or misconduct were often not fully investigated. After they were, the accused coaches later had opportunities to teach elsewhere. The report found that several investigations across the league “didn’t successfully root out misconduct.”
After the 2015 N.W.S.L. season, one player reported Riley’s sexual misconduct to the Portland Thorns, where he was then coaching, and the league. The Thorns conducted an investigation that lasted one week, and Riley was promptly terminated from the team. However the Thorns didn’t inform their players, other teams or the general public in regards to the reason for Riley’s termination. Riley was later hired by one other women’s league team.
The report said that several players tried to lift concerns about Dames through the years, including in 2014, 2015 and 2018. A report by the US Women’s National Team Players Association in 2018 prompted Lydia Wahlke, U.S. Soccer’s chief legal officer, to rent outside counsel to analyze Dames. By October 2018, the investigation had found that Dames created “a cycle of emotional abuse and manipulation” on the Chicago Red Stars. But Wahlke didn’t share the findings with the Red Stars or the N.W.S.L.
One player said she had realized that reporting Dames’s conduct “was a lost cause.”
The investigation did in a roundabout way examine youth soccer in the US, however the report found several instances of verbal and sexual abuse of players.
“The culture of tolerating verbal abuse of players goes beyond the N.W.S.L.,” the report said. “Players also told us that their experiences of verbal abuse and blurred relationships with coaches in youth soccer impacted their ability to discern what was out of bounds within the N.W.S.L.”
One example cited within the report details an anonymous grievance that Riley had created an “unsafe environment” in his F.C. Fury Development Academy girls’ program and that a coach in this system had “inappropriately touched a minor player.” The person making the grievance said that Riley had not reported the incident and expressed “fear of reprisal from Riley for speaking out,” adding that Riley is “known to be vindictive to anyone who crossed him.”
Amongst its recommendations, the report said that teams ought to be required to reveal coaches’ misconduct to their leagues to be certain that the coaches cannot move freely from one team to a different, and that the N.W.S.L. ought to be required to meaningfully vet its coaches and investigate allegations of misconduct.
The report also beneficial that the N.W.S.L. conduct an annual training for players and coaches on problems with misconduct and harassment, and that teams designate a person accountable for player safety.
The report also advised U.S. Soccer to look at whether it should institute other measures in youth soccer to guard young players.