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Former Red Stars coach Rory Dames accused of verbal and emotional abuse

(Robin Alam/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Following Rory Dames’ resignation as head coach of the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, new details have emerged about the power dynamics in Chicago, with multiple players accusing Dames of emotional and verbal abuse.

Christen Press, a member of the Red Stars from 2014-17, is one of seven players who detailed their accounts of Dames’ emotionally abusive behavior to the Washington Post’s Molly Hensley-Clancy. Five of the players said they asked to be traded or sought to leave the team because of Dames’ treatment of them. Their stories and confidential records detail a pattern of misconduct that could be described as “controlling, berating and humiliating players and breaking the boundaries of the player-coach relationship,” according to the report.

Press told the Post that she first spoke up about Dames during a meeting with then-U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and other federation officials in 2014. Gulati did not act on her complaints, telling her at the time that Dames’ conduct was expected from a professional coach, Press said.

Gulati declined to comment to the Post as a result of U.S. Soccer’s pending investigation into the NWSL, which has had multiple coaches fired for abusive behavior this past season.

In 2017, Press told Dames that she wanted to be traded, a consequence of his treatment of her as she explained to the Post. The next year, she filed a formal complaint with U.S. Soccer, launching an investigation into Dames’ behavior. In the complaint, which was reviewed by the Post, Press explained that Dames had repeatedly violated the federation’s policies against “emotional misconduct.”

“I think Rory emotionally abuses players,” Press wrote as part of the formal complaint. “He doesn’t have a safe distance between himself and his players. He uses his power and status as the coach to manipulate players and get close to them.”

Becca Roux, executive director of the national team player’s union, confirmed the contents of the complaint made to U.S. Soccer.

“Things were happening that were inappropriate,” Press said. “But I’d been told to be quiet, that this was fine.”

The players all reportedly cited one incident when asked to explain the type of coach Dames was.

The players interviewed described one practice where Dames singled out a player, who was the mother of a young child at the time. According to multiple players who witnessed the incident, Dames felt she had not been communicating clearly and screamed at the player: “If you can’t even talk on the field, what kind of mother are you?”

The player, who could not be reached for comment, began to cry.

“Something happens to [Dames] when he comes to work, because he’s a completely different person, and he does not have to be that way,” said Sam Johnson, a former Red Stars player who was present for the incident. “It’s extremely demoralizing, and definitely verbally abusive. Is verbal abuse against the rules? I don’t know, but I just know I wasn’t comfortable with him challenging my teammate like that.”

Other players said that Dames would verbally attack players when he was angry, mocking players’ educations and personal lives.

“I realized that this man would use information he has about me in a way that will harm me, and in a way that he can manipulate me,” one player said, echoing others who said they had withheld personal information from Dames. “I don’t want him to know about the things that matter most to me.”

Press said she often witnessed the coach control players in a way that felt gendered.

The Post said it reached out to the Red Stars with a summary of the players’ accusations, seeking comment about the complaints. A team spokeswoman issued a statement assuring an “independent review of player health and safety and the team’s work culture” without any specifics. Hours later, nearing midnight in Chicago, the club announced Dames’ resignation.

The accusations make Dames the fifth male NWSL coach to be the subject of misconduct allegations this year. In September, multiple players accused former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley of sexual coercion and emotional abuse the in The Athletic. Those allegations led to the resignation of league commissioner Lisa Baird.

At the time, U.S. Soccer opened an independent investigation into the NWSL, led by former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates. Up until this year, U.S. Soccer acted as the managing body of the NWSL, having been involved with the league since its founding in 2013. As a member of the USWNT, Press was employed by U.S. Soccer, and not the NWSL, when she played for Dames.

“I was terrified of what Rory would do and say if he found out this was something I’d said,” Press said of her decision to speak to U.S. Soccer officials in 2014. “And then I was made to feel by U.S. Soccer that I was in the wrong, there was nothing to report, and that this was acceptable.”

“For so many women in this league, you think you don’t have any worth,” she continued. “And if you stand up and you say what you think is right or wrong, nobody cares.”

As for U.S. Soccer’s prior investigation into Dames’ behavior, three players told the Post that they never heard from the federation after detailing their allegations. Another said she spent more than two hours speaking to an investigator and never received a follow-up message.

Molly Levinson, who represents the USWNT players, called the federation’s handling of the accusations “very disappointing.”

“The U.S. Soccer Federation should provide safe and accountable mechanisms for players to report harassment and abuse, free from retaliation, and if necessary, take steps to hold to account anyone who does not adhere to proper standards,” Levinson said. “USSF utterly failed to do any of those things in this case.”

The Red Stars, in a statement later Monday, said the organization launched an independent review of player health and safety and the team’s work culture several weeks ago and plans to implement those recommendations accordingly.

“We stand with the players who are fiercely advocating for change, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure a safe environment for the League’s players, staff, volunteers and fans,” the club said.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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