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NWSL fallout: Kansas City Current didn’t retaliate against players, avoids fine

NWSL Investigation
Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-09 14:32:36-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Current will not face any punishment stemming from allegations that former coach Huw Williams mistreated certain current and former players and that the club retaliated against some of those players.

The NWSL announced the “corrective action” it was taking in response to the Joint Investigative Report the league issued last month in conjunction with the NWSL Players Association.

The league’s statement Monday called the allegations against former Current coach Huw Williams, who was removed as coach but remained in a scouting/front office role in November 2021, and complaints from players about retaliation “concerning,” but ultimately it didn’t levy a fine against the Current.

“While it is concerning that several players raised concerns about being mistreated or retaliation upon raising those concerns, there is no finding that the club retaliated against players,” the NWSL said in an email early Monday afternoon.

The Current was not mentioned in the bombshell Yates report, which was commissioned by U.S. Soccer to investigate numerous instances of misconduct directed at players during the NWSL’s first decade.

But the joint investigation, which was released Dec. 14, detailed instances of “Williams’s ineffectiveness as a coach, and his negative and discouraging comments towards players.”

While the Current escaped punishment, the NWSL meted out some severe punishment for other instances, including lifetime bans for four former coaches — Richie Burke of the Washington Spirit, Rory Dames of the Chicago Red Stars, Christy Holly of Racing Louisville and Paul Riley of the Portland Thorns FC.

The league will continue to prioritize implementing and enhancing the policies, programs and systems that put the health and safety of our players first. Those actions are fundamental to the future of our league, especially as we build a league that strengthens our players’ ability to succeed and prosper on and off the pitch.

As part of our commitment to accountability and deterrence, the league has determined that further corrective action with respect to certain organizations and individuals identified in the Joint Investigative Report is appropriate and necessary.
NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman

RELATED | NWSL Commissioner promises action after Yates Report

The NWSL also suspended former NJ/NY Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue and former Utah Royals FC coach Craig Harrington for two years with the possibility for conditional reinstatement.

To be considered for a future job, they must admit wrongdoing and accept responsibility for the misconduct, participate in training and convince Berman of their “sincere commitment to correcting behavior.”

Six other former employees in the league — none with connections to the Current — must meet the same conditions to work in the NWSL again.

Williams, whose front-office role was terminated in November 2022, does not face any conditions on future employment within the league.

The league said it spent millions on the investigation and no individuals named in the NWSL and U.S. Soccer reports “are working in any capacity within the NWSL.”

Additionally, the Red Stars were fined $1.5 million and owner Arnim Whisler, who was removed as the club’s board chair in October, will sell the team.

Thorns owner Merritt Paulson also announced plans last year to sell his franchise.

Racing Louisville was fined $200,000, the North Carolina Courage were fined $100,000, the OL Reign and Gotham FC were each fined $50,000.

The Spirit were previously sold and sanctions won’t imposed on the new owners, who took over in March 2022.

Berman told KSHB 41 News that addressing the allegations of misconduct raised in the Yates report and rooting out the systemic mistreatment of players was her “top priority” when she visited Kansas City in October for a groundbreaking at the Current’s stadium, which will open next year.