Report on abuse and apparent inaction follows Rory Dames' resignation

You don’t send out a statement in the middle of the night that your only coach in 11 years is quitting unless something is up.

The Chicago Red Stars sent out an email shortly before midnight local time that Rory Dames, their head coach for the previous 11 seasons in the WPSL and NWSL, had stepped down.

The announcement came 36 hours after the Red Stars, beset by injuries, managed to take the Washington Spirit to overtime before losing, 2-1, in the NWSL championship game. It ended Chicago's sixth straight season in the playoffs, an NWSL record.

On Monday, the Washington Post's published a report by Molly Hensley-Clancy in which players said Dames committed what they believed was verbal and emotional abuse and broke boundaries of the player-coach relationship.

Dames is one of five male NWSL coaches who have been terminated or resigned and been accused of misconduct this year. Of the 10 NWSL head coaches who started the 2021 season, only Houston's James Clarkson is still on the job. Three other coaches resigned to take other coaching jobs and one was re-assigned to a new technical role after his team failed to make the playoffs.

The report detailed complaints about Dames' behavior made by U.S. national team star Christen Press, who joined the Red Stars in 2014, to U.S. Soccer:

1. In 2014, she said had a meeting with then-U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and other federation officials about how "Dames had created a toxic environment on the team." She told the Post she recalled Gulati saying "Dames’ behavior was normal for a professional coach." (Gulati did not comment, citing the ongoing investigation into the NWSL.)

2. In 2018, after being traded from the Red Stars, she filed a formal complaint against him with U.S. Soccer for violating its policies against “emotional misconduct" in an effort to protect the players at the Red Stars. An investigation was conducted, but players said they never heard from the federation about the results of the investigation or any action taken. The Post cited multiple players who said they never heard from investigators despite wanting to share their stories.

Press, who chronicled her early pro years in a series of 50 columns for Soccer America in 2012-14 (photo), joined the Red Stars after spending three seasons in Sweden in a bid to make the 2015 U.S. World Cup team. She returned briefly to Sweden in 2018 rather than accept her trade to Houston. She told the Post about her decision to speak up in 2014:

“I was terrified of what Rory would do and say if he found out this was something I’d said. And then I was made to feel by U.S. Soccer that I was in the wrong, there was nothing to report, and that this was acceptable. For so many women in this league, you think you don’t have any worth. And if you stand up and you say what you think is right or wrong, nobody cares.”

Other former Red Stars players who spoke to the Washington Post included Jen Hoy and Sam Johnson.

U.S. Soccer was instrumental in the NWSL's launch following the demise of WUSA (2001-03) and WPS (2009-11) and continues to pay the salaries of select U.S. national team players in the league. When the league was formed, U.S. Soccer ran its operations out of its headquarters in Chicago. According to its 2015 audited financial statement covering the period when Press joined the Red Stars, the management agreement between U.S. Soccer and the league "provides that the Federation will perform all management, governance, operational, administrative, and advisory services for NWSL."

U.S. national team players play in the NWSL under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between the USWNT Players Association and U.S. Soccer. The Post reported that the 2018 complaint against Dames was brought by the USWNT PA, to hold, according to executive director Becca Roux, “management accountable for both addressing the underlying issue and for putting measures in place to ensure it never happens again.”

Roux told the Post:

“There have been multiple, systemic failures to keep players safe in women’s soccer, and all actors in that system — including USSF, NWSL, the players associations, players, staff, youth sports officials — must do better to ensure players’ safety."

In early October, U.S. Soccer retained former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in the NWSL, which is ongoing. It acknowledged it played a major role in establishing the NWSL in 2013, provided administrative support to the league until 2020 and continues to financially support the NWSL in which almost all of its national team players compete. On Friday, Marla Messing, the NWSL's CEO, estimated U.S. Soccer's spending on the NWSL to be $25 million.

Upon retaining Yates, U.S. Soccer said it will share the results of the investigation when it concludes.

36 comments about "Report on abuse and apparent inaction follows Rory Dames' resignation".
  1. R2 Dad, November 22, 2021 at 9:03 p.m.

    Naughty coach--imagine that. As a youth referee I had to pass a background check, despite never being in contact with youth athletes off the pitch. But this guy coaches for 10 years before any consequences for his unconscionable behavior. What else is USSF getting wrong?

  2. Santiago 1314, November 22, 2021 at 10:49 p.m.

     Are too (haha, That's funny how Your Name Came out in Speech-to-Text) You missed the Punchline.,, USSF Spent 25 million on NWSL!!!...It's not clear if that is yearly or since 2013.... So, USSF Built a Sand Box for the Girls to Play In, Paid Some of Them To: "Play Nice" In the Sandbox with the other POOR kids and THEN, The Bratty, SPOILED, Pampered Kids: Threw Sand in The USSF's Face and Sued them for NOT Paying them Equal to the Men.!?!?!?... When they were OFFERED The Same Sand Box as the Boys, They said NO!!!.. They wanted one: "With a Shrubbery,.. One That Looks nice, and Not Too Expensive" (jajaja)...How Much Did USSF pay to startup MLS. ???... As for The Coaches Behavior: Lets let the Investigations and Legal System Take Care of It. This is America still; Innocent until Proven Guilty... Ask Rittenhouse.!!!

  3. Victor Mathseon replied, November 23, 2021 at 7:50 a.m.

    And Santiago shows us exactly why this sort of abusive behavior towards players, referees, and other coaches persists.

  4. beautiful game replied, November 23, 2021 at 9:27 a.m.

    El Caudillo 1314, omniscient and denigrating as always; a common charcter flaw in the narcissist community.

  5. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 10:20 a.m.

    Can anyone tell me what this coach exactly did wrong. There are no specifics, as usual. These women if it's that bad should come together and say something. We're not dealing here with 12year old little girls but adults. But if you're going to ruin a men's life lets get the dirty wash out for then it be a warning for every other coach as far as behavior goes. And furthermore why is it only certain players and not the whole team....????

  6. stewart hayes replied, November 23, 2021 at 10:54 a.m.

    Take a look at this Frank.

    'yellling at a player on the field ... "if you can't talk on the field what kind of mother are you"...'

    That demeaning 'motivation' has no place in sports.  The man should not be coaching anyone.

  7. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 11:30 a.m.

    "Go Woke, Go Broke"... You Can't Fire the Whole Team(or League in this situation), so This Style of Coaching must Go...
    This Generation of "Kids" is Different then Previous Generations... SOFT and SOCIALLY LITIGOUS... They "Sue" you thru the Media and Social Networks, Not thru the Legal and League System... GUILTY until Proven Innocent....
    "they believed was verbal and emotional abuse..." "They BELIEVED"; being the Key Phrase.
    ... Who of us hasn't had a "Verbally or Emotionally Abusive" Coach.??? ... The Coaching Community was already heading toward a "Kinder, Gentler" Coaching Style, (Of which I have always Used and Been an Advocate for.).. I have always Coached with the Philosophy that you can get more out of a Player, thru Positive Feedback, But Coaches can also be Successful via Negative Approach... We have all seen that...
    But Now I think we will see an Over-Reaction; Coaching on "Eggshells" is a Receipe for Disaster..... Ask Ole...
    As for  "Broke Boundaries" That can mean a Lot of things Depending on Who's Perspective.???  And What Time Frame.???(Joe Biden-Donald Trump era or Post George Floyd/Me Too)... Are they in Written Form, or are they just "BAD FORM".???  .. It's always a Good thing to Let Coaches/Adults and even Teammates know, early On, there are BOUNDARIES... 
    This Doesn't sound like anything Criminal.
    Throw the Book at him, if it Is.!!!
    Just Remember; "They Persisted", When the League Folds..
    (Don't Cut OFF Your Nose to Spit Your face... Look what Over-Reaction has led to in this Country...You end up with Career Criminal/Bail Jumpers on an "Inappropriately Low" Bond, Driving thru Parades Killing Grannies.!!!) 

  8. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 11:31 a.m.

    Stewart, That's it???? I need more than that to convince me....

  9. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 11:51 a.m.

    Stewart, when I was coaching a U15 girls team, I casually walking while watching the girls pass the ball around in practice, stated to one of the girls, "I hope you can make more practices", for she's been missing some. Her mother called me and accused me of yelling at her daughter. I learned fast that accusations like that can take a turn for the worse....I now step back whenever I hear an accusation of that caliber about a coach and not take it to heart one hundred percent. I realize one has to be there to get the full picture and context to make that judgement....And as far as I'm concerned the women have not come up with what would I would call a substantive case, at least not by the evidence thus far shown....

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2021 at 6:14 p.m.

    Frank, professionally a telltale I used was whether the authority figure acted privately or publicly. Any coach or manager with a half a brain understands the need to protect themselves. Approaching someone alone is a red flag. Another indicator is persistent behavior. You can't just read about the "he said she said". You should not expect to make judgments based on news articles. This context is more important than everything said, except for a complaint.

    I know you have coached women and know how to avoid this type of problem. As for yelling on the field, I know you also understand the difference between coaching and abuse.

  11. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 9:40 p.m.

    Bob, I didn't see anywhere, where He was alone with a Player... Seems like he always had others around... Hard to see anything Criminal, But Civil suits could Drag In Owners and Federations for years.

  12. Ric Fonseca replied, November 24, 2021 at 5:37 p.m.

    I completely agree with Victor Matheseon's comment, as well as beautiful game's when he mentions "El Caudillo 1314..." narcisisstic comments, which in turn makes me believe that 1314's soccer acumen  is in the dumps, and then to tell the readers to ask Rittenhouse?!?!?!?

    As we say in Spanish: "... por eso estamos como estamos, y nunca progresamos ...."  "This is why we are the way we are and never advance..."  Hay Dios mio!!!   

  13. Wayne Norris, November 23, 2021 at 6:33 a.m.

    I have read several early stories on this and all I see is that Dames has committed "verbal and emotional" abuse. Shouldn't specifics be required on this?

    Christen Press is same one who got on National TV and states that she has been "denied the opportunity to make fair living" during USWNT media blitz against US Soccer....

    if Dames has truy "violated" the coach / player relationship I am 100% in support of the NWSL players on this issue but just stating "verbal and emotional" abuse.......provide specifics!

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

    The normal practice for investigations of this type is that specifics are not released to the public. The investigation could lead to civil or criminal charges and there are privacy concerns for victims generally and minors specifically.

    Did you see specifics reported in the press about the US Gymnastics scandal?

  15. David Flanagan, November 23, 2021 at 9:16 a.m.

    Anyone who observed Rory as a youth coach would know he had no business coaching young girls. When he moved to NWSL his coaching style w as doomed to fail. He is and has always verbally abusive, but parents who wanted DI scholarships for the children looked past that  behaviour at his youth club. He did win with players playing in fear of failure. instilling that fear caught up to him as professional women will no longer accept that style of coaching.

  16. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 11:41 a.m.

    Yes David, we have all seen "Successful" Youth Club Coaches who Berate Their Players... 
    I don't know this Guy... Eclipse from Chicago has a Good Reputation on Developement/Placement,
    and 11 years as a Professional Head Coach at 1 Team would have to be Considered "Succesful"...
    Looks like we are only going to get "Nice Guy/Girl/PERSON" Coaches in the Future..
    You know what they Say: Nice Guys Finish Last... Look at Clarkson at Dynamo/Dash... Nice Guy...
    He must Feel like a Bullseye on his Back.??? 

  17. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 11:50 a.m.

    And David,
    I guess that kind of gets back to my First Post... "he had NO Business Coaching Young Girls"
    Isn't that what all the "Complaining" is About... The girls NOT getting Treated the Same as the Boys... Not getting the Same Quality of Coaching, for Example...
    Treating the Girls, diffferently than you Treat the Boys... 
    We Can't have it Both Ways... Say they are the Same, and Then Complain when they are Treated the Same. 

  18. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 11:52 a.m.

    Santie, Right ON!!!

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2021 at 6:21 p.m.

    Santi and Frank, I reject your implication that it is okay for boys to have abusive coaches. There is a rational reason that drill sergeants verbally abuse boots, and it isn't because its a better coaching style. It is because they are trying to prepare them for the stress of combat and they are no longer allowed to physically abuse the trainees. Any coach that adopts the drill sergeant style of coaching is ignorant and doomed to fail as both a teacher and leader.

  20. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 10:12 p.m.

    Bob, I agree with your overall approach, My style has never been the "Drill Sargent"...But we have all seen these "Verbally abusive" Coaches on Both sides that are "Successful"... I am just trying to emphasize that Its just not true That " Drill Sargent" coaches are Doomed to Failure... And the Girls and the Boys must be able to Deal with it on an equal Basis or are we going to have 2 diffent standards for the sexes. ???

  21. Bob Ashpole replied, November 24, 2021 at 12:37 a.m.

    I judge developmental coaches by their success in developing players, not by match results. Too many coaches have no interest in developing players. It is cheating the players.

  22. Kevin Sims, November 23, 2021 at 12:42 p.m.

    The series of revelations regarding NWSL coaches is disturbing. The dismissive attitude among leaders deepens the pain. Let's hope open dialogue and clarity of expectations and positive coaching win the day. We have to do better!

  23. Ankl Brkr, November 23, 2021 at 12:59 p.m.

    Did anyone even read the article in the Washington Post? It explains the full details of what transpired over his tenure with the Stars. If you read the entire article and think his behavior was acceptable in any way, then god help us all. Dames, Riley, Burke, et al. should have never been placed in a position of power at any level. Their behavior has no place in the youth, collegiate, or professional setting. 

  24. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 1:24 p.m.

    Anki, all I got were as follows...."players had seen Rory Dames cross a line into what they believed was verbal and emotional abuse: controlling, berating and humiliating players, and breaking the boundaries of the player-coach relationship."  (SPECIFICS???where it it?)

    “I think Rory emotionally abuses players,” Christen Press, a U.S. national team star. ("I think"???????...SPECIFICS?

     “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.” Becca Roux, executive director of the national team players’ union.

    “Things were happening that were inappropriate,” Press said.

    She remembered telling them that Dames had created a toxic environment on the team, yelling at his players in a way that seemed like “harassment.”  (SPECIFICS?????)

    This Post article didn't get into specifics just general garbage.

  25. Ankl Brkr replied, November 23, 2021 at 3:09 p.m.

    I don’t think you read the entire article. How did you miss these specific examples?
    -texting her at all hours, asking her to spend significant time with him outside of soccer and retaliating against her when she eventually tried to pull away from him.
    -He would mock players’ educations and personal lives on the field, they alleged. He sometimes joked that an Asian player should be smarter than she was playing, two players said, in a way that they felt made implications about her race, and he frequently commented to religious players about their holidays.
    -She asked him if she could stay in New York to see her parents, who had driven eight hours to watch the game; Dames often gave the team the rest of the weekend off, meaning she wouldn’t miss team events. Dames said he would let her know after the game. She played poorly that day, she remembered, “caught up in anxiety and fear” that he might not let her stay. She said she sat in the locker room after the game “completely defeated, just thinking, ‘Please let me go see my family.’ ” Dames approached her and said: “You’ll be traveling back with the team tonight.” She was crushed, she said. When they returned to Chicago, Dames gave the team the entire weekend off.
    -Dames told his team that he had planned a day of one-on-one meetings. But he did not give them a schedule, instead telling them they needed to be available with five minutes’ notice. That day, three players said, no one dared leave the hotel, even for food.
    -Dames took a particular interest in her — one she said she felt went far beyond soccer. It started with lunches, usually with just one other player present, and then dinners with just one or two other players before games; he told her they were mandatory. As the player recalled it, Dames sometimes told her they would lose if she didn’t come. At meals, she said, he often asked her about her personal life, quizzing her about her relationship with her boyfriend.

  26. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 4:03 p.m.

    Anki, good point ,missed that, don't know how....

  27. Bob Ashpole replied, November 23, 2021 at 6:38 p.m.

    Frank, invading a player's personal space is a specific example.

  28. Miriam Hickey, November 23, 2021 at 1:18 p.m.

    Thanks for speaking up David!

    I watched and heard him coach a girls team getting ready for ECNL Nationals in a scrimmage  against one of the Region II ODP teams I was involved with. A player early on in the game threw the ball in to the 'wrong' teammate who ended up losing the ball and one of our forwards got a shot off on goal which the gk saved. RD screamed at the player to get her ass of the field as they were better off playing with 10 players. He then told this 14-15 year old player to start running laps around the field. When halftime came around she stopped running and was listening to RD' speech. When he saw her standing near the team he told her to keep running as she did not deserve to be part of the team. She ran laps the entire second half...

    Just one example but there are many many more, just ask the referees and coaches of opposing teams... and players who left the Eclipse Club.
    No player (boy or girl) deserves to be treated like that, not then, not now, not ever!

    Big issue is that parents of youth players did not and do not speak up when obvious degrading and negative comments are being made (screamed at) by the coaches, as that would mean playing time being cut, dismissal from the team and opportunities to be scouted by college coaches taken away. We are winning games, so all is well? 

    As RD is the owner of the club with no one above him to set him straight or motivate him to change his ways. Where was the ECNL leadership who possibly could have taken action? = Good old boys network who continue to protect their own as $$$ and power is more important than creating/upholding standards for clubs to create an environment where players can thrive without being berated.

    Female players getting screamed at by a coach day in day out when making a mistake and seemingly being ok with that? Sounds a lot like having Stockholm syndrome? What are the long term consequences of being treated like that for years?

    Hope a thorough investigation will take place with the appropriate consequences for all involved who allowed this behavior to continue for years at the club (Eclipse and Red Star), league (ECNL and NWSL) and Federation level.

  29. Kevin Leahy, November 23, 2021 at 2:20 p.m.

    It is disturbing more to me that it has gone on this long with no, real action. It is apparent @ every level and the feeble responses are sickening. You have to walk a fine line when coaching, teaching & leading. It's one thing to have an isolated incident but, something else to have a track record. 

  30. beautiful game, November 23, 2021 at 4:08 p.m.

    IMHO, civility in discourse has lost its bearing. If coaches can't be professional, it matters not whether they coach boys or girls. I'v seen both sides of the coaching experience as a player and spectator...coaches that communicate and coaches that go ballistic. It takes one to start the noise which is repeated ad nauseam until it become common practice.

  31. Guy Walling, November 23, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.

    For there to be any reports of a so called "coach" yelling and screaming profanity at a 14 and 15 y/o girl is pathetic and for the parents not to step in at that very moment, esp when their daughter is having to do laps around the field instead of being a part of the team is very sad. Sounds like a form of child abuse in my opinion. RD seems like a weak minded coward with extremely low self-esteem! 

  32. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 5:14 p.m.

    Ouch, that WaPo article is Very Scathing... Definetly Sounds like the Coach has CONTROL Issues...
    Low Self Esteem indeed... IF, IF, This is all Proven Out... Hopefully the Right Decisions(After DUE PROCESS) will be Made by KidSafe Type Organizations to Remove him from "Approved" List... 

  33. frank schoon replied, November 23, 2021 at 5:37 p.m.

    I got a feeling this guy has some issues. I also wonder if he was a defender type when he played for St.Louis univ back in early 90's. This guy doesn't belong in coaching or any position where he's the boss over others...

  34. James Madison, November 23, 2021 at 6:02 p.m.

    When, oh when, is someone going to stop beating around the bush and say in plain English what this "abusive behavior" and "breaking the coach-player boundaries" is claimed to be.

  35. Santiago 1314 replied, November 23, 2021 at 9:25 p.m.

    James, Read the WaPo article... It's pretty Damning.... And it just scratches The Surface... I can imagine what is going to come out in this Investigation and Previous Buried Reports.. I just hope once the Lawsuits stop, that the Woman's League will be able to find "Owners"... Not to say that these Women don't have a Justifiable Reason to Sue, either Criminally or Civilly... But who is going to want to Invest in League where The Law Suits will out number the Goals. !!!

  36. Kent James, November 25, 2021 at 12:29 p.m.

    Frank and Santi, I'm impressed that you seem to have changed your minds based on evidence that you were intitialy unaware of.  Like you, I was wondering the nature of the specific claims (a coach who seems to think berating a player will drive them to do better to "show" the coach v. someone who goes way beyond that).  While I think negative coaches are not good coaches, most are not criminals.  Clearly this coach was way beyond that.  

    But I think you should not be so quick to dismiss the accusers, and at least give the system a chance to consider the worth of their claims.  While there are no doubt false accusations against people in authority, there are a lot more valid cases that are ignored than their are false accusations that lead to inappropriate punishments.  The system still protects those in power more than the accusers.

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