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What NWSL misconduct report revealed about each club

(Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NWSL and NWSLPA released the findings from their joint investigation into “widespread misconduct” in the league on Wednesday afternoon.

Just Women’s Sports outlines key new details from the report, organized by club.

Angel City FC

  • One of two expansion teams for the 2022 season, Angel City FC did not figure prominently in the findings. Still, the report did note the club, like many others, had a “too narrow” anti-harassment policy, which only prohibits “unlawful” harassment. In contrast, the league’s anti-harassment policy “prohibits discriminatory and harassing conduct in any form, regardless of whether it rises to the level of a legal violation.”

Chicago Red Stars

  • Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler considered keeping coach Rory Dames on staff in a non-player-facing role despite knowing about the Washington Post’s 2021 report into his misconduct. In the end, Dames was asked to resign after the 2021 season, but Whisler still paid him for the rest of the year.
  • Craig Harrington, who served as an assistant coach for the Red Stars from 2018-19 and as the Utah Royals coach in 2020, “blurred professional boundaries” with players, including drinking with them at bars and making sexual comments to and about players. While he denied the reports, the investigative team did not find his denials to be “credible.”

Gotham FC

  • Alyse LaHue, who served as general manager from 2018 until her dismissal in 2021, made unwanted sexual advances toward a player during her time with the club.
  • During Christy Holly’s tenure as head coach from 2016-17, players reported to management that he was verbally abusive, but the club took no action. The club also “failed to share accurate information about Holly’s conduct both with the league and other clubs.”

Houston Dash

  • Vera Pauw, who stepped down in 2018 after one season in Houston, weight-shamed players and “attempted to exert excessive control over their eating habits.” Players said Pauw “wanted to exert control over ‘every aspect of their lives.’”
  • James Clarkson, who followed Paul as Dash coach and also served as general manager from 2019-22, was described by players as “volatile, verbally abusive, and as not showing appropriate regard for players’ wellbeing.” Players also said they feared retaliation if they spoke out. Clarkson was suspended in April and his contract will not be renewed, the Dash announced Wednesday.

Kansas City Current

  • Huw Williams took the reins as Current coach in 2021, and players expressed concerns about his demeaning communication style, including comments such as, “I’m going to ream your ass.” He moved to a front office role after the 2022 season, but the team parted ways with him last month.
  • Team owners Angie and Chris Long told Williams about the meeting with players, and they also “identified to him specific players who organized the meeting, although he did not know all the players who participated.”

North Carolina Courage

  • Paul Riley, who coached the Courage from 2017-21, engaged in similar misconduct with the club that led to his dismissal from the Thorns. Kaleigh Kurtz said she felt Riley had been grooming her and identified his conduct as abusive.
  • Club leaders were aware when they hired Riley that he had suggested two Thorns players kiss while at his apartment after a night of drinking, and that an investigation into his conduct showed he exhibited “poor judgment.”

Portland Thorns

  • Riley’s sexual misconduct in his two seasons with the Thorns in 2014 and 2015 was documented in detail by the US Soccer investigation released in October, and the NWSL and NWSLPA investigation corroborated that report.

OL Reign

  • Farid Benstiti, who served as OL Reign coach from 2020-21, was hired “despite public evidence that Benstiti had engaged in weight shaming of Lindsey Horan, who had played for him at Paris Saint-Germain.”
  • OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore told Benstiti he could not discuss diet or weight with players, but he criticized players’ weights and diets and said he would monitor their food and snacks. After he gave a speech in which he criticized players’ diets, the club took action and removed him as coach.

Orlando Pride

  • Amanda Cromwell, who served as Pride coach from 2021-22, and assistant coach Sam Greene, were investigated in March 2022 for inappropriate favoritism.
  • Both coaches then “engaged in retaliatory conduct toward players they believed to have participated” in the investigation. They were placed on leave and later banned from the league.

Racing Louisville

  • Christy Holly engaged in repeated sexual misconduct and abuse targeting player Erin Simon, as revealed in the US Soccer report and corroborated by the NWSL and NWSLPA report.

San Diego Wave

  • Former U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis denied receiving complaints from forward Christen Press about Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames during. Ellis, who now serves as Wave president, also did not recall players bringing verbal abuse by NWSL coaches to her attention during her time with the USWNT from 2014-17.

Washington Spirit

  • Richie Burke, who coached the Spirit from 2019-21, “used racial epithets, made jokes about race and ethnicity, and undermined activism on issues of race.” While he acknowledged much of this conduct to investigators, he “did not view his conduct as problematic.”

NWSL

  • The NWSL itself also received criticism in the report. For example, Lisa Levine, who worked as general counsel for the league from 2017-21, mishandled player complaints, including those regarding Riley. When interviewed by the investigative team, she “deflected criticism of the NWSL’s failure to act in response to these complaints onto the players themselves.”

US Soccer

  • US Soccer too bears responsibility for systemic failures, the investigation found. The federation managed the NWSL from 2013-20, and whole former US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said they relied on the league and teams to develop misconduct policies, expectations were not communicated clearly, which resulted in a lack of oversight at all levels.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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