New Washington Spirit President Ben Olsen wants to stay out of ownership dispute


Ben Olsen doesn’t want to involve himself with the ongoing ownership dispute within the Washington Spirit.

The new Spirit President sat down with The Athletic to discuss his new position and what he hopes to bring to the table. He admitted that while he is new to the women’s game, he hopes that coming in with fresh eyes and with experience leading a similar organization (D.C. United), he’ll adjust to an admittedly steep learning curve.

“We are a pro sports organization and that has to be one of the major projects that we’re pushing,” he said. “The other is continuing to support the D.C. community. We have to do more in the D.C. community. We have to be better with our fans. We have to understand them better, we have to listen to them and then we have to fill some voids in this organization with smart hires.”

He asked that in that process, Spirit fans be patient with him.

“Judge me on the next couple of months, or a year. Judge me on how we go about implementing this next phase of the Washington Spirit.”

There is no agenda with the hire, according to Olsen, who asked for the benefit of the doubt when pressed about being another hire from the “boy’s club.”

“I understand anybody that says ‘here’s another man coming in here, he’s part of the ‘good ol boy’ network’,” he said. “I get it. I do. But my track record as a community member in this city for 20 years and the cultures that I’ve built within D.C. United, the interactions I’ve had within the soccer community here.

“I think I’m coming in with a fairly clean slate and new eyes looking at this project.”

Part of that project will be hiring a new head coach. According to Olsen, interim coach Kris Ward will be part of the discussion, as he “seems to have a good handle on the team.”

In the article, Olsen confirmed that he was hired by co-owner and CEO Steve Baldwin. It seems to have been a quick hire, as soon after Olsen sat down with Baldwin to talk about the job, he was offered the position.

Olsen revealed that has not talked to Y. Michele Kang, the Spirit’s other co-owner who is currently in a power struggle with Baldwin. Olsen added that he doesn’t want to get caught up in the ownership dispute. Rather, his focus will be on winning championships, serving the community and building a more modern organization.

“This is ownership’s world and they will come to some agreement — or not,” he said. “They’ll continue — or not. I will, as best I can, navigate that with more energy and focus on not getting caught up in it.

“I will get caught up in this organization and supporting the team and front office so that we can win championships.”

When asked about concerns regarding the framing of Kang’s involvement in the club’s recent COVID outbreak, Olsen called it “noise.”

“I’m not getting into it,” he said. “I have to address some of that stuff. That’s the responsibility I have as president. But I don’t have a perfect answer on which things I need to get involved in right now. That’s going to be a feeling out process.”