The Chicago Red Stars ownership released a statement late Tuesday night, apologizing to "Christen Press, Jennifer Hoy, Samantha Johnson and those players who didn’t feel safe to come forward" amid the Rory Dames abuse allegations.
Less than 48 hours after losing to the Washington Spirit in the NWSL Championship, Dames resigned as the coach following an investigation conducted by The Washington Post that revealed multiple allegations of emotional and verbal abuse.
Some of the allegations in the report include: texting players at all hours, asking players to spend significant time at lunches and dinners with him that he said were mandatory, joking that an Asian player should be smarter than how she was playing, commenting to religious players about their holidays, calling a player from Appalachia "trailer trash," comments on players' appearances, withholding family time off for a player due to her performance during a game and, on one instance, allegedly benching a player after she introduced him to her boyfriend.
"As the owners of the Chicago Red Stars, we commit to holding ourselves accountable and to doing better. There is no place for any type of abuse in women’s sports," the ownership said in a statement. "The fact that it happened here, despite the belief that we had mechanisms in place to prevent it, means our club will require significant reflection and evaluation to ensure this does not happen again."
The ownership also detailed requirements within the new coaching search: "We will ensure active player involvement in the identification and selection of the new coach. We will mandate interviews of coaching candidates that include sports psychologists and other professionals who can more deeply screen candidates. We will conduct thorough background checks and interviews with prior peers, players and team staff."
Press, a U.S. women's national team star, was one of seven players who said the 48-year-old had been emotionally abusive.
She wrote in notes compiled for a formal complaint obtained by The Post, “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.”
Multiple players reportedly went to the U.S. Soccer Federation since it oversaw the NWSL at the time and paid national team players to play in the league. Press said she first told former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati about her concerns with Dames but was dismissed.
These allegations, resignation and apology come in the wake of multiple firings and abuse allegations across the league.
Dames is the fourth NWSL coach this year to have been dismissed over misconduct allegations, with a fifth, former Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly, being fired "for cause" with no additional details given. Lisa Baird, the former league commissioner, also resigned after allegedly sidestepping pleas to reopen an investigation against former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, who was accused of sexual misconduct.
The National Women's Soccer League Players Association announced last month that the league had met all eight of their demands, including creating an investigation committee for transparency.
The NWSLPA's demands for addressing the systemic transformation needed within the league included (but were not limited to) expanding the scope of the league's investigation. Additionally, they wanted to introduce new protocol that would require any person in power "at the time that a Club either hired or separated from employment a coach who was, is, or will be under investigation for abuse be suspended from any governance or oversight role within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effectively immediately," per its statement earlier in October.
The league agreed to the creation of a five-person committee to oversee the investigation, which will include "two representatives from the NWSL Players Association, one from NWSL, one Club representative, and one jointly selected neutral party."
"The scope of the investigation will broadly review any instances of inappropriate conduct and seek to identify systemic failures to protect player health and safety," the press release read. "The objective of this investigation is to seek the truth in order to develop evidence-based practices that will transform NWSL into one where player safety is at the forefront."