James Clarkson will no longer work for the Houston Dash following the release of the NWSL and NWSLPA’s report on “widespread misconduct” in the league.
The coach and general manager was suspended in April based on initial findings from the investigation, though the club provided few details. The Dash announced Wednesday that they will not renew his contract, which is set to expire at the end of the year.
“Any further recommended corrective action will be at the direction of the NWSL Office of the Commissioner,” the Dash wrote. The team also apologized to any players who experienced misconduct by Clarkson.
A total of 26 current and former Dash players and staff members were interviewed as part of the investigation, and they painted a picture of Clarkson as “volatile, verbally abusive, and as not showing appropriate regard for players’ wellbeing,” per the report.
Clarkson, who was hired as the Houston coach ahead of the 2019 season, “communicated with players in a manner that created anxiety and fear,” the report states. He targeted players with “excessive and unjustified criticism,” players said, and his mood was “unpredictable.”
Players said he “created a culture of anxiety,” and two players said they sought therapy as a result of his conduct.
Players also took issue with the way Clarkson and the club handled a complaint of racial discrimination by stadium security.
Sarah Gorden, a Black player, said her boyfriend was mistreated by stadium security, particularly in comparison to the family and friends of white players. The NWSL investigated the incident but did not take disciplinary action.
Before the investigation concluded, Clarkson told players to apologize to stadium security for their conduct.
“Some players and club staff explained that the apology was requested because players had violated COVID-19 protocols in the stands,” the report states. “But some players and club staff described that Clarkson seemed to defend stadium security, and players and club staff expressed disappointment at Clarkson’s and the club’s failure to attempt to understand the Black players’ perspective.”
Other players and staff members approved of his handling of the situation and said he later “apologized if he had appeared insensitive.”
For those who wanted to report Clarkson for misconduct, avenues were limited, Dash players told the investigative team, as they described Clarkson and club president John Walker as “best friends.”
“This perceived close relationship led players to feel like they had no avenues to report their concerns and that no one was monitoring Clarkson’s conduct to ensure that it was appropriate,” the report states.
While “a majority of players expressed the view that Clarkson’s treatment of players did not rise to the level of abuse or misconduct,” the investigative team disagreed, concluding that Clarkson’s actions “constituted emotional misconduct.”