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From NWSL to Hockey Canada, governing bodies fail us


Image for article titled Sports would be all right if it wasn’t for the organizations that run them

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Yesterday was just a banner day for the governing bodies of sports. We know that people in power will do just about anything to protect what little fiefdom they have. In the grand scheme of things, having a seat on the organization running whatever league or game is a pretty small fiefdom. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a waterfall of ass-covering, even if that means people lower than that fiefdom are getting hurt.

We’ll start with the NWSL, where Sally Yates released her report that was commissioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which used to run the league. Yates was asked to investigate the width and depth of abuse of players in the league, which came to light last year with Meg Linehan’s reporting in The Athletic on former Portland and NC Courage coach Paul Riley. Soon, coaches were falling like dominoes around the league as more stories of verbal abuse, hostile work environments, and sexual misconduct came to light.

Yates’ report focuses on Riley, former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames, and former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly. The sections about Dames and Riley weren’t necessarily surprising, as we’d heard most of the details before. It was further documentation that the front office and owner of the Portland Thorns, and the MLS’s Timbers, were well aware of Riley’s abhorrent misconduct, and yet did nothing about it. The report also notes that the Portland organization didn’t participate in the investigation and at times sought to impede it.

There were also yearly complaints to USSF from Portland players, with the organization failing to act every time. Again, no one was or is taking responsibility for the lack of accountability. Only players suffered for far too long.

As for Dames and Chicago, the revelation in the report was that owner Arnim Whisler was made aware, a few times, of the complaints against Dames, and not only didn’t do much about them, but actively sought to stamp them out and even gaslighted some players. Maybe the most disturbing aspect of Dames’ behavior was that it started when he was a youth soccer power broker in suburban Chicago. It’s quite the mutant who thinks it’s “coaching” to be screaming at teenage or adolescent girls, even to the point of body-shaming them or throwing out racist or sexist insults.

According to the report, Holly, while coach of Louisville, allegedly groped a player under the guise of film sessions at his house, among other disgusting acts such as verbal abuse of players. Holly worked for the USSF between NWSL gigs, but no one ever passed along the thing he was accused of at Sky Blue FC before he ended up at Louisville or at USSF.

We still don’t have the depth of all this, and have to wait for the investigation that the NWSL and NWSLPA have commissioned together. Not that this isn’t enough. On the plus side, Holly, Riley, and Dames are out of the game. Sunil Gulati, president of USSF at the time these complaints were repeatedly filed and sat on his hands, is also not involved anymore. More will follow. More should follow. Ownership in Portland and Chicago need to be exorcised for their unacceptable actions, or inaction.

It’s not a pleasant process, but the road to washing the league of these abuses is not supposed to be pleasant. The endgame is, which we’re hopefully moving toward.

And then there’s Hockey Canada

Meanwhile, organizations that can’t even admit there’s a problem, we have Hockey Canada, and the reports that it has a second secret slush fund to help smaller groups around the country to cover up accusations of sexual assault by players.

The first fund was discovered after Hockey Canada’s handling of various accusations of sexual assault against players under the Hockey Canada flag came to light. The fund was used to compensate accusers before things would get to court and in the public. And now there’s a second one.

As we said the first time it came into view that Hockey Canada had a separate fund, taken from players’ registration fees no less, to cover the costs of abuses by players and coaches under their watch, you really have to consider the scope of the problem that the organization felt the need to have a multi-million dollar fund on hand for dipping into at a moment’s notice. Of course, having that money to pay out does nothing to solve the root cause of the problem, that hockey players and coaches are essentially let loose on communities with no training, no education, and no consequences.

There hasn’t been the bloodletting at Hockey Canada like there’s been at the NWSL, and Hockey Canada has been slow to move. Hopefully soon.


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