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Racing Louisville players: Change only came after ‘worst-case scenario’

Racing Louisville FC players huddle after practice at Lynn Family Stadium. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Racing Louisville players remember bringing their concerns about former coach Christy Holly to the organization. They also remember those concerns being dismissed.

One current and three former Racing players were in the midst of an interview with WHAS11’s Tyler Greever on Wednesday when the Louisville club issued its statement addressing the recent U.S. Soccer report into abuse in the NWSL.

The findings from U.S. Soccer’s investigation included details of Holly’s abuse of former Racing player Erin Simon, which included multiple instances of groping and unwanted sexual advances.

According to the players who spoke with WHAS11, previous concerns regarding Holly had been brought forth but were not taken seriously by the team.

Racing Louisville club president James O’Connor apologized to Simon in the letter released Wednesday, and he called hiring Holly “a mistake” that the team has learned from. He also noted that Holly was “terminated within 24 hours of us being alerted to the behavior.”

Yet the players said the team only took action once reports of Holly’s behavior reached “worst-case scenario” of abuse while dismissing other issues.

“Last year, there were so many people that went up to the higher ups and spoke and addressed their concerns,” former Racing player Taylor Otto said. “And they did absolutely nothing. They said, ‘Oh, we’ll look into it. Oh, are you sure that happened? Oh, well, what was the context?’”

Otto estimated that as many as 10 people voiced concerns over Holly’s behavior.

“So you’re telling us that you’ve changed, you’re listening and you’re going to address these issues when players come to you and you hope they feel safe coming to you,” she continued. “But how do you expect your players to feel safe coming to you about these problems when you did absolutely nothing?”

Former Racing player Julia Ashley noted that when Simon reported Holly’s abuse in August, it was the “breaking point.” But Ashley said when players brought their issues to the front office before that point, they were asked to present “the facts.”

“We went in early and spoke to James spoke to HR about all the small things that were happening — not small things, but things that accumulated over time that were smaller in comparison to the sexual abuse,” she said. “The sexual abuse is what is being brought up right now because it is the most prevalent and it is the biggest part of it.

“But all of these small things are getting pushed aside. And they’re not being recognized.”

Current Racing player Emina Ekic noted that players were told they were “weak” and that front office members brushed off Holly’s actions as “criticism” and “yelling.”

“We could still be sitting here with nothing being addressed if it didn’t get to the worst-case scenario, which was assault,” she said. “It had to escalate to the worst possible thing for us to be sitting here and talking about it and recognizing that everything that’s happened and what the club did was wrong.”

Jorian Baucom, a former Racing player who now plays for the North Carolina Courage, called out the organization for failing to call Simon’s situation what it was. She recalled the club informing players that Holly had been fired for “an inappropriate relationship.”

“What still irritates me is that James [O’Connor] and Racing will not say that Erin was sexually abused and that Christy Holly was a predator,” she said. “I’m sorry, but that’s not a relationship. He sexually abused her. And he preyed on her and what he did that needs to be addressed.

“If they’re saying they commend Erin, they need to say they need to personally apologize to her. They came out in 2021 with that statement that was so absolutely vague. We didn’t need to say Erin’s name, you could have very well still brought up the fact that a player in the organization was sexually abused by Christy Holly, and no further questions.”

In his statement, O’Connor said Racing is “not the same club that we were in August of 2021,” but Baucom said she believes she is still seeing “kind of the same patterns” with the club.

Other players have also spoken out about their time in Louisville, with Brooke Hendrix detailing the powerlessness she felt in being unable to help Simon. Simon, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday saying that she hopes soccer can become “a safe place.”