Christy Holly forced a player into sexual contact when he was an NWSL head coach, a new report says.
An independent investigation details Holly's misconduct towards Racing Louisville defender Erin Simon.
Holly allegedly groped Simon during film sessions, sent unwelcome sexts, and forced her to touch his penis.
A former National Women's Soccer League head coach forced unwanted sexual contact with one of his players during his tenure at the front of the bench, an independent investigation into "systemic abuse" in the NWSL revealed Monday.
The year-long inquiry — commissioned by US Soccer and led by former United States Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates — found that former Racing Louisville FC head coach Christy Holly initiated and sustained a pressure campaign for a one-sided sexual relationship with Erin Simon, then a defender for the club. When Simon took measures to distance herself from Holly, he retaliated with verbal and emotional abuse that was noticed by others around the franchise.
Simon alleges that Holly sent her unwanted text messages with sexually explicit content, groped Simon during film sessions at the club's facilities, and — on at least one occasion — masturbated in her presence without consent and then forced her to touch his penis. Supporting evidence from several witnesses in and around the club seemingly corroborate Simon's claims.
Leadership at Racing Louisville FC fired Holly "for cause" in 2021 after his conduct towards Simon came to light within the organization. But the club did not release further information publicly regarding the nature of their inaugural head coach's wrongdoing, with the Executive Vice President at the time going so far as to say, "I'll take the attorney line" rather than disclosing details voluntarily.
Holly was one of three NWSL coaches who were the main subjects of Yates' report. Paul Riley — a coach for the Portland Thorns who later assumed the helm for the North Carolina Courage — was accused of luring players into his bed and forcing them to kiss one another, among other forms of misconduct. Longtime Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames was accused of verbal and emotional abuse, as well as harboring inappropriate relationships with players.
None of the three aforementioned individuals still has a coaching license in the United States, US Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone confirmed after the investigation's findings were released Monday afternoon. But Yates stressed in her report that "Riley, Dames, and Holly are not the only coaches who mistreated players."
"By the end of the 2021 season, five of the League's 10 teams had separated from their head coaches in the wake of player complaints," the 319-page document reads. "In many cases, some of the misconduct at issue was not behind closed doors — it was on the sidelines at games, videotaped at practices, and, in some cases, already the subject of public reports."
The culture of abuse in the NWSL is so pervasive, in fact, that Yates told Insider she couldn't look into other coaches or executives credibly accused of misconduct because it was "important that this investigation not go on forever."
"We put enough in the report and we investigated enough to be able to demonstrate the systemic nature of the abuse here," Yates said. "It's been almost a year to the day actually since we were retained. And in order for there to be both transparency and accountability and to be able to put in place the changes that need to happen, this investigation needed to end.
"Because of the breadth and the difficulty of piecing through evidence that's quite old, even with respect to three of these coaches, it was a huge undertaking," she added.
A separate joint investigation between the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association remains ongoing.
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