KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s first National Women’s Soccer League team was named in a recent independent investigation into the league.
The 172-page report, commissioned by U.S. Soccer and completed by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and the law firm King & Spalding, found emotional abuse and sexual misconduct were systemic in the sport, impacting multiple teams, coaches and players.
The investigation was commissioned after former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim came forward with allegations of harassment and sexual coercion dating back a decade involving former coach Paul Riley.
The report names FC Kansas City in an NWSL player survey for having poor conditions for training in 2014.
“For training room, used one of the players living room in apartment for first 4 months,” one comment said. “Training room started in one of our apartments, then went to a trailer … no AC.”
The report states problems continued in 2015 in Kansas City as some teams began to fix their inadequate facilities.
“We trained on turf nearly every day, despite being told we would be training mostly on grass,” one comment said.
The complaints continued into 2017 when FCKC was still ranked as one of the league’s worst training, match facilities and match fields along with Sky Blue FC (now known as NJ/NY Gotham FC).
Chris Likens and his sons Brad and Greg Likens, as well as Brian Budzinski, owned FCKC at the time; the group also owned the Kansas City Comets at one point. Now Budzinski, Lane Smith and Jamie Poulson own the Comets.
Chris Likens was also accused of sending sexually suggestive emails about female soccer players in 2013.
FC Kansas City was founded in 2012 and won two NWSL championships before dissolving in 2017.
Elam Baer, the CEO of Minneapolis-based North Central Equity, LLC., purchased the club in January 2017. However, mismanagement and absentee ownership made the league re-acquire Baer’s NWSL membership interest in order to cease the team’s operations in November 2017.
The team’s player contracts, draft picks and player-related rights were sold to expansion team Utah Royals FC.
When the Royals ceased operations in December 2020, the owners of the Kansas City Current (then named Kansas City NWSL), Angie and Chris Long (and later Brittany Mahomes), acquired Utah’s player assets.
The Utah Royals were also named in the report for public allegations of a toxic work environment, racist behavior and front office sexism.
Owner Dell Loy Hansen allegedly made racist remarks and described by more than one individual as “touchy.” Former head coach Craig Harrington was also alleged of making inappropriate jokes about employees.
Hansen put the team up for sale shortly after the allegations were made public.
The KC Current was not named in the report for any allegations.
The report does name Current midfielder Lo LaBonta as a source of several findings from the investigation.
Some of the conclusions that she and other witnesses noted include most NWSL teams lack an adequate training staff and human resources representative.
LaBonta also played for both FC Kansas City and Utah Royals FC. While in Utah, LaBonta described an incident where Harrington commented to a player and a female coach “taking care of kids is a woman’s job.”
Current head coach Matt Potter was also named in the report; Potter was a U.S. Soccer Federation scout and worked with former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly.
His interview was used to demonstrate how Holly began working with USSF without having a USSF coaching license.