Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe were among nine players from the U.S. national team who signed a letter criticizing U.S. Soccer for its handling of complaints against former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames.
Dames has been accused of misconduct stretching back decades when he was a youth team coach, well before he joined the National Women’s Soccer League team, according to a report The Washington Post published Tuesday.
In addition to Morgan, Press and Rapinoe, the letter was signed by Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Sam Mewis, Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn.
The accusations included verbal and emotional abuse and other inappropriate behavior. An elite youth player, who was not named by the Post, also claimed that Dames groomed her for a sexual encounter once she turned 18. A lawyer for Dames denied the claims in the story.
The players’ letter was sent Wednesday to U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, as well as former president Carlos Cordeiro. Both are again candidates for the post, with the election set for March 5.
“Over the years, while we played on the USWNT and in the National Women’s Soccer League, many of us reported to USSF instances where, as adults, we experienced abusive conduct by our coaches,” the letter said. “Now we have learned that this abusive treatment also was repeatedly reported by minors and that USSF failed to respond to protect these young players. That is utterly disheartening.”
Here's the full text of the letter sent to USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone and and candidate(/former prez) Carlos Cordeiro from #USWNT players Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Sam Mewis, Alex Morgan, Kelley O'Hara, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn. pic.twitter.com/ydCplFsXYU
— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) February 9, 2022
Dames was investigated by police in Arlington Heights, Illinois, in 1998 after a former player said he inappropriately touched her when she was underage. The investigation was dropped because no formal complaint was filed.
“Mr. Dames has a reputation as an excellent soccer coach over 25 years of coaching thousands of soccer players. With the exception of a few players disgruntled for one reason or another, the vast majority of players have thanked Mr. Dames for investing in them as players,” attorney Susan Bogart told the Post in response to the allegations.
Dames was one of five coaches in the NWSL who stepped down or were fired last season for misconduct.
North Carolina coach Paul Riley was fired after two of his former players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, accused him of sexual harassment and coercion. Those accusations prompted both the NWSL and U.S. Soccer to open investigations, and led to the resignation of NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.
Dames abruptly resigned last November ahead of another report in the Post that said former players, including Press, had gone to U.S. Soccer with complaints about Dames going back to 2014.
“The mission of U.S. Soccer’s new leadership, which has been in place since 2020, is to create a safe space for all athletes who love this sport to learn, grow and compete,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday night. “We share the concerns about allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct and have taken the important step of retaining former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Q. Yates to conduct an independent investigation.”
Yates’ investigation is ongoing. In their letter, the players called for transparency and action.
“To rebuild the trust of players, fans, and sponsors — to move forward – USSF must show that it is serious about change. We demand that USSF release the full findings of its investigation in a timely manner and commit to enacting meaningful institutional reforms to protect players,” the letter said.
“We will not stop fighting until we can ensure that this sport is safe for ourselves, for our daughters, and for every little girl who cheers us on and dreams of one day playing the sport we all love,” it continued. “We hope your immediate actions will demonstrate that you both share this goal.”
Sarah Spain, an ESPN reporter who has an ownership stake in the Red Stars, posted Tuesday on social media: “It’s the same story, over & over again. Across different sports, leagues & countries. The power to change a life & career wielded over girls & boys. Control over a sport they love. A system built to shame & silence. This is sickening, and so many let it keep happening.”
Another former player, Megan Cnota, said Dames made comments of a sexual nature and degraded the players. She was among those who spoke to police at the time.
“We tried to make it come to light 25 years ago,” Cnota told the Washington Post, “and nobody believed those teenagers.”
In all, 14 former youth players told the Post that Dames was verbally and emotionally abusive toward them.
Rapinoe posted a statement of support on Twitter, adding: “Yet another monster operating in plain sight for decades. [Molly Hensley-Clancy] thank you for your work. To all the little girls who have turned into women who have suffered verbal, emotional, sexual and physical abuse under Rory you have been failed to deeply. You are brave beyond belief.”