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Gotham FC owner denies knowing about Christy Holly abuse as he steps away

(Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gotham FC owner Steven Temares offered Sunday to remove himself at least temporarily from the club’s governance as the aftershocks of U.S. Soccer’s abuse investigation continue to ripple through the NWSL.

U.S. Soccer’s report, released last Monday, revealed complaints of abuse against former coach Christy Holly during his time at Sky Blue FC before the franchise rebranded as Gotham FC. Temares has said he will step aside from operations until the ongoing NWSL and NWSLPA investigation concludes.

“In addition, to avoid any potential distraction to the Club, I am offering to remove myself from the Club’s governance pending the final report from the NWSL and NWSLPA,” Temares said in a statement.

Holly was fired from Sky Blue in August 2017 after complaints from players of emotional and verbal abuse, and after his inappropriate relationship with a player created a “toxic” environment within the locker room. The team, though, publicly spun his departure as a simple parting of ways, similar to the Portland Thorns’ treatment of Paul Riley’s dismissal.

Holly later was hired by expansion club Racing Louisville, where his abuse escalated to sexual misconduct, per the U.S. Soccer report, before he was fired by that club in August 2021.

Former Racing Louisville president Brad Estes said he spoke with Temares before the club hired Holly in August 2020, and he received the impression that Temares would “100 percent” hire Holly again, according to the U.S. Soccer report.

“We brought in somebody that fits the way we like to do things,” Estes said at the time of Holly’s hiring.

Racing Louisville fired Holly “for cause” in August 2021.

Temares, in his statement Sunday, disputed the claim made by Estes in the U.S. Soccer report.

“At no point did I tell anyone that even with the relationship issue I would rehire Christy Holly at Sky Blue/Gotham FC,” he said.

“The reference I provided to Louisville was without any knowledge of any claims or complaints of abuse by Christy Holly,” Temares continued. “When I provided a reference, I only knew that Christy Holly allegedly had a consensual relationship with a player, which both parties denied when questioned.

“If I had known of any abusive behavior by Christy Holly, it absolutely would have been disclosed in any reference provided and — as I already stated — it would have been cause for immediate action.”

Gotham FC fans have asked for the removal of Temares from the ownership group.

“As made clear by the Yates report he is an enabler who is partly responsible for Christy Holly’s hire at Racing Louisville,” the Cloud 9 supporters group said in a statement.

Erin Simon, who said she was repeatedly abused by Holly during her time at Racing Louisville, joined former Thorns players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly last week in calling for the removal of “complicit” owners.

“Owners who have driven a culture of disrespect, who are complicit in abusing their own players, have no place in this league and should be removed from governance immediately,” Simon, Shim and Farrelly said in their statement. “This will be the first of many necessary steps to finally hearing our voices and keeping our players safe.”