KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Current was mentioned in the National Women’s Soccer League and NWSL Player Association’s joint investigation into the league.
The 128-page document, which was completed by law firms Covington & Burling (hired by NWSL as an independent investigator) and Weil (counsel for the NWSLPA), describes “widespread misconduct directed at NWSL players” at “the vast majority of NWSL clubs at various times from the earliest years of the league to the present.”
Like the Yates report that was released in October, the investigation focused on the behavior of head coaches and the reactions of the owners of the Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville FC.
The 2-year-old Kansas City Current franchise was named in the investigation as well about fear of retaliation from former head coach Huw Williams.
The report details how multiple current and former players suffered retaliation from Williams for “participating in an August 2021 meeting with other club leaders, including club owners Chris and Angie Long.”
During the meeting, players raised concerns about Williams’ ineffectiveness as a coach and his unprofessional/demeaning style of communication.
According to players, Williams would make comments like, “I’m going to ream her a**,” and “you are a pain in my a**,” demeaning players’ abilities, and telling players, “I do this [drill] with my 12-year-olds” and “I do this with my U14s.”
The report said players did not feel respected as professionals because of these comments.
Angie Long recalled players telling her how training and practices were conducted but could not recall concerns about Williams’ interactions with players.
The Joint Investigative Team requested an interview of Angie and Chris Long, and Angie
Long sat for an interview. During that interview, Long explained that she was more involved in on-the-field issues, and Chris Long was more involved in sponsorship and other business issues.
Williams reported that the Longs and a staff member told him players weren’t happy because the team was losing. He also recalled being told that players were concerned about the amount of training for reserve players.
The report goes on to say Williams acknowledged that club leaders also informed him of specific players who organized the meeting, but he did not know all the players who participated.
Players reported Williams apologized to the team the day after the meeting, but players felt the club did not take action to address players’ concerns after the meeting.
The Current was 3-7-14 in its first season in the NWSL with Williams as head coach.
Several players reported that following this meeting, Williams began to treat certain
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.” Williams reported that he had a good relationship with this player during the season.
Before the next season, certain players who participated in the meeting or raised concerns about Williams were traded, waived or not re-signed. Multiple players reported there was an overlap between these players and those who had been vocal at the meeting.
One player recalled that six players spoke during the meeting; only one returned for the next season.
One player who spoke up at the meeting and was subsequently traded said because she
and other players spoke up, “[w]e all knew we were going to be traded.” Another player recalled
this teammate remarking that she would not be surprised if she was traded after the meeting.
One player who was waived after the 2021 season had signed a multi-year contract extension
with the club before the August meeting.
Williams proffered non-retaliatory justifications for the transaction to the Joint Investigative Team. Both Williams and Angie Long recalled the club trying to find a trade within the NWSL for one player but being unable to find a trade partner.
Williams explained the club’s transactions by saying the club needed better players.
“We needed to make a lot of changes — we were last [in the league] … The changes we made were to become a better soccer team,” he said.
The report states Angie Long did not recall many details of discussions regarding these player transactions. She did recall discussing one of the transactions with Williams and that he offered a soccer-related reason for the transaction.
After finishing in last place at the end of the season, the Current moved Williams to a scouting role and relieved him of his head coaching duties.
“He wasn’t winning” was the reason Angie Long gave for the change.
KC Current officials said Williams is no longer employed with the Current as of November.
The report recommended the NWSL should strengthen its anti-harassment policies, develop and enforce guidelines addressing appropriate interactions between club staff and players, enhance reporting and investigation procedures and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives among other recommendations.
KC Current released the following statement Wednesday night.
The joint NWSL/NWSLPA report released today is another important step forward in our journey to build a league focused foremost on player health, safety and respect. We’re working together to build a league that our fans are proud to support, and our players are proud to participate in.
We stand with every athlete who has come forward to share their experiences. From day one, our priority to be a player-first organization has guided our decisions every day, at all levels.
In August 2021, as detailed in the report, KC Current ownership met with all players. We understood their concern to be lack of quality training, preparation and player communication. As such, we took the following actions: we 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 sincerely apologizes to any player who has experienced anything other than our unequivocal player-first environment. At our core, this is who we are. It defines and guides everything we do.
During the offseason, team owners made the decision to overhaul almost the entire technical staff and, in doing so, increased the number of technical professionals from 12 to 18. Notably, the team hired a new Head Coach and General Manager for the 2022 season and revamped the High Performance Group.
Major milestones include opening a world-class training facility in only 11 months; breaking ground on the first purpose-built stadium for a women’s professional soccer team; and creating an environment where every player has the resources they deserve to realize their maximum potential.
The club is committed to improving player safety and support in reporting misconduct of any nature. 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.
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