Players respond to abuse allegations by writing to US Soccer
Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe were among the US national team players who signed a letter criticizing US Soccer for its handling of complaints against former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames.
According to a Washington Post report released on Tuesday, Dames has been accused of wrongdoing for decades while he coached a youth team long before he joined the National Women’s Soccer League.
The allegations included verbal and emotional abuse and other inappropriate behavior. An elite youth player, unnamed by the Post, also claimed Dames groomed her for a sexual encounter after she was 18. A lawyer for Dames denied the claims in the story.
The players’ letter was sent to US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone and former President Carlos Cordeiro on Wednesday. Both are running again for the post, with the election scheduled for March 5.
“Over the years, while we have played with USWNT and the National Women’s Soccer League, many of us have come forward to USSF instances where, as adults, we have witnessed abusive behavior by our coaches,” the letter reads. “Now we have learned that this abusive treatment has also been repeatedly reported by minors and that the USSF has not acted to protect these young players. This is absolutely discouraging.”
Dames was investigated by Arlington Heights, Illinois police in 1998 after a former player said he inappropriately touched her when she was a minor. The investigation was closed as no formal complaint was filed.
“Mr. Dames has been known as an excellent football coach for over 25 years in which he has coached thousands of football players. With the exception of a few players who were upset for one reason or another, the vast majority of players have thanked Mr. Dames for that he invested in her as a player,” attorney Susan Bogart told the Post in response to the allegations.
Dames was one of five coaches in the NWSL to resign or be fired for misconduct last season.
North Carolina coach Paul Riley has been fired after two of his former players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, accused him of sexual harassment and assault. These allegations prompted both the NWSL and US Soccer to launch investigations and led to the resignation of NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.
Dames abruptly resigned last November, ahead of another report in the Post that former players, including the press, had gone to US soccer with complaints about Dames dating back to 2014.
“The mission of US Soccer’s new leadership, as of 2020, is to create a safe space for all athletes who love this sport to learn, grow and compete,” US Soccer said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press night. “We share concerns about allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct, and have taken the important step of engaging former U.S. Attorney and Assistant Attorney General Sally Q. Yates to conduct an independent investigation.”
Yates’ investigation is ongoing. In their letter, the players called for transparency and action.
“In order to rebuild trust with players, fans and sponsors – to move forward – the USSF must show that it takes change seriously. We request that the USSF release the full findings of its investigation in a timely manner and commit to conducting meaningful institutional reforms to protect players,” the letter said.
“We will not stop fighting until we can make sure this sport is safe for ourselves, for our daughters and for every little girl who cheers us on and dreams of one day playing the sport we all love” , he continued. “We hope your immediate actions will demonstrate that you both share this goal.”
A total of 14 former youth players told the Post that Dames verbally and emotionally abused them.
In addition to Morgan, Press and Rapinoe, the letter was signed by Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Sam Mewis, Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn.
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