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NWSL report: Players allege Current ignored mistreatment by former coach Huw Williams

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Posted at 5:08 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-14 22:48:20-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Current have received widespread praise for a groundbreaking approach to ownership of a women’s professional sports team.

But not even the Current were spared from facing allegations of misconduct in a sweeping report issued Wednesday after a joint investigation commissioned by the National Women’s Soccer League and its players union.

The Report of the NWSL and NWSLPA Joint Investigative Team claims that the Current did not address concerns raised by players about former coach Huw Williams during an August 2021 meeting with ownership and failed to stop him from retaliating against those players.

The report comes four months after the bombshell Yates report laid bare some of the league’s issues with mistreatment of players, including some accusations of sexual misconduct, in August 2022.

Williams was relieved of his coaching duties in November 2021 after the Current’s inaugural season.

The club announced that he would transition into a front-office role that included some scouting.

The Current confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Williams was no longer employed by the team, effective November 2022.

A group of current and former Current players allege that they met with team leadership in August 2021 to discuss “Williams’s ineffectiveness as a coach, and his negative and discouraging comments towards players,” according to the report.

The players prepared a document that outlined their concerns, including “comments made during training, like ‘I’m going to ream her ass,’ and ‘you are a pain in my ass,’ demeaning players’ abilities” and other disrespectful comments or behavior.

Williams was not present for the meeting, but he found out about it from Current owners Angie and Chris Long, as well as at least one other staffer, according to the report.

“Williams acknowledged that club leaders also identified to him specific players who organized the meeting, although he did not know all the players who participated,” the report said.

Williams apologized to the team the day after the players’ meeting with ownership.

“Several players reported that following this meeting, Williams began to treat certain players negatively,” according to the report. “One player reported that Williams stopped communicating with her, would ignore her when greeting other players, and made efforts to avoid her. Another player recalled hearing about and witnessing the same behavior. Multiple players reported hearing that Williams referred to this player, a leader in the locker room, as ‘toxic.’”

Angie Long met with investigators and “did not recall any concerns about Williams’s treatment of players being raised at the August 2021 meeting, instead recalling that players shared concerns about the level of training and the team’s poor performance,” the report said.

She also told investigators that she wasn’t concerned “about potential retaliation against the players who spoke up at the meeting.”

Several players who participated in the meeting or raised concerns were subsequently traded, waived or not re-signed.

“Multiple players reported that there was an overlap between these players and those who had been vocal at the meeting,” the report said. “One player recalled that six players spoke during the meeting; only one returned for the next season.”

The report does not mention any players by name, but it notes that one player who was traded had signed a multi-year contract extension shortly before the August meeting.

Another player who spoke up at the meeting told teammates she expected to be traded after the meeting.

Williams, who had control of many roster decisions, told investigators that the personnel moves were not motivated by retaliation.

“We needed to make a lot of changes,” he said, according to the report, “We were last [in the League]. ... The changes we made were to become a better soccer team.”

Players still believed that the roster moves had a chilling effect in the locker room fueled by “a general fear of retaliation for reporting concerns or otherwise taking action protected by the Anti-Harassment Policy,” the report said.

The Current addressed the report in a lengthy statement Wednesday night.

"The club sincerely apologizes to any player who has experienced anything other than our unequivocal player-first environment," the club said in part in the statement. "At our core, this is who we are. It defines and guides everything we do."

In the statement, the Current also addressed specifics from the report, including the meeting between ownership and players in August 2021.

The club said it was aware of players' concern about the lack of quality training, preparation and player communication.

In response to the meeting, the club said it "addressed performance-related issues related to former employee and then-head coach Huw Williams and started the search for a new head coach."

"The club is committed to improving player safety and support in reporting misconduct of any nature," the club said in a statement. "To that end, the club has provided players with multiple reporting outlets and restructured the organizational chart to create layers of independence. Every decision we make as a club will continue to focus on the advancement of our players, the NWSL and women’s professional soccer."