The following is a statement from Racing Louisville FC in response to Wednesday’s release of the NWSL and NWSLPA joint investigative report:
To our players, past and present, we are sorry for what happened during Christy Holly’s tenure. We take responsibility for what happened, and we pledge to ensure a better team culture moving forward.
Our athletes should never have been put in this situation. We take responsibility for hiring Christy Holly, and we deeply regret not having a more stringent vetting process in place, something we have since corrected. The report clearly confirmed that “when Racing Louisville learned of Holly’s sexual misconduct toward Erin Simon, the club acted quickly, firing him within hours of speaking to Simon, and in spite of a request from the NWSL that [the team] pause …”
Regarding the investigation, we ultimately cooperated fully by making personnel available for interviews and providing documents requested. We felt it was critical that the public and community stakeholders know the full truth of what happened. Accountability begins with transparency.
Still, it is vital the Louisville community knows the compassion we feel for our players and the steps of accountability and healing we are taking as an organization. Racing Louisville FC — and everyone involved in women’s soccer — must do better to protect and support these world-class athletes. We want our team to understand how seriously we take the results of this investigation and that we are committed to providing a work environment in which everyone can be proud and feel safe.
As it relates to the separation agreement and non-disparagement language mentioned in the report, it was never our intent to hinder any investigation or stop any player from speaking out. We applaud every player who has told her story publicly. On advice of the club’s former counsel, we entered the agreement with Holly to protect our players from being named publicly as the events were unfolding. Although the motives were born out of what we perceived to be in the best interests of the players and in the interest of expediting the dismissal of Holly, we recognize in hindsight that was the wrong decision. Our current team president was not involved with crafting the NDA, and we strongly support the league severely restricting their use.
As to the team meeting of June 2021, we take responsibility for failing to fully understand how Holly’s treatment of the players was negatively affecting the team and individual athletes. Club leadership tried to clear the air between players and the coaching staff by calling this meeting, but in retrospect, this should have been handled differently. For that, we apologize and have learned from the situation. If individual players were retaliated against by Holly, we apologize. We have made clear to the new coaching staff that retaliation will not be tolerated. We expect every player to be treated with respect, and we now have the ability to actively monitor this kind of issue with the implementation of the RealResponse system, a tool for players to anonymously communicate problems they are having.
In the aftermath of Holly’s tenure, Racing Louisville cleaned house and made several changes to our coaching staff and the way our organization functions. The staff and culture of 2021 is not the staff and culture of Racing Louisville FC today. We have fully embraced the need for change that protects our players and provides them with the support they deserve to feel safe and protected.
Since terminating Christy Holly in August 2021, we have taken the following steps to foster an improved environment:
- Provided company-wide access to RealResponse, the leading safe and secure feedback, monitoring and anonymous reporting platform for athletic teams and organizations.
- Required all employees to participate in SafeSport training, which includes abuse awareness and prevention guidance.
- In conjunction with the NWSL, created a more thorough, exhaustive vetting process for coaching hires responsible for assembling Racing Louisville’s current staff. Moving forward, players will also have the opportunity to speak to potential new coaching hires.
- Opened the search for a Racing Louisville general manager position to oversee day-to-day team operations with a goal toward improving on and off the field. Duties include oversight of performance, player recruitment and compliance while providing support and insight for players and staff.
- Added a new assistant coach to the Racing technical staff. This coach will liaise directly with players on their individual development plans while also working with staff on coaching objectives.
Further, Racing Louisville FC commits to our players, fans and community stakeholders the following changes to further improve our culture and ensure the well-being of our players and staff:
- Working with the NWSL, updating company-wide anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and practices to address specific issues facing our industry, including training programs to be run by an accredited third-party resource.
- Making available psychologists and chaplains to our players, should they need or want counseling for anything happening on or off the soccer field.
- Scheduling town hall events for season ticket members to share their input directly with team officials.
We will also work with the League to implement the league-wide changes it announced on Wednesday. We will also consider additional steps once we have fully reviewed the report and received feedback from the players, coaches and staff.
It is our hope these efforts being undertaken by team president James O’Connor and the new coaches and personnel lead to the positive change we all want to see. We will continue to listen, learn and act to ensure the best possible environment for players. We are excited about what the future holds for our team, both on the field and as a matter of providing a work environment of which our athletes, staff and community stakeholders can be proud.