"They stay silent, we're gonna be silent," said Herman Quinn Jr., who has been president of The Coopers for the past year and a half. "Tomorrow night is just the beginning of our silence."
After sexual assault allegations against former Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly came to light Monday as part of a nationwide investigation into abuse across the National Women's Soccer League, The Coopers' board members said they plan to hold a silent protest during the men's upcoming match. Fans attending the match are being asked to wear teal-colored clothing to support sexual assault awareness.
"Today's news has sickened us to the core," board members wrote in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday night. "First and foremost we would like to apologize to the current and former Racing Louisville players. We are very sorry that the leadership of Racing Louisville and Soccer Holdings has failed you. This is not the kind of foundation that Louisville soccer was built upon. Nor is it the culture that was established since 2014/2015. It has shown us that we, as supporters, being a big part of that foundation, have given up too much trust. We have lost too much respect and have not been as vigilant as we once were.
"That stops today. From this day forward we vow to work together with the rest of the Purple Family to be more responsive & vigilant in what is going on with the clubs and players we support, to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again to the women and men we cheer on. Please let it be known that if no one else will fight for you — or if anything is going on — come to us and we will fight right alongside you.
"As for the LouCity v Detroit City FC match this Wednesday … there will be no banners hung, no drumming or chanting during the first half. We ask that everyone in Lynn Family Stadium join us Wednesday night. We ALL must do our part!"
Holly, Racing's inaugural coach, allegedly told one of his former players, Erin Simon, that he would touch her "for every pass (she) f***** up" during a one-on-one film session on April 21, 2021, and "pushed his hands down her pants and up her shirt," according to an independent investigation conducted by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on behalf of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF).
Holly is also accused of engaging in a "pattern of misconduct" during his time in Louisville, including "verbal and emotional abuse of players and a relationship with a staff member that caused problems." Simon told investigators Holly exhibited similar behavior toward her when the former coach drafted her to the club now known as NJ/NY Gotham FC in 2016.
Four months after the alleged film session incident, Racing fired Holly "for cause" but did not elaborate on its reasoning. Yates' report says club executives conducted a "swift" investigation after Simon confided in a team chaplain, Taylor Starr, who eventually reported the alleged sexual harassment to other staffers.
Robin Pryor, the president of Racing's Lavender Legion supporters group, told the Courier Journal on Tuesday she emailed then-Executive Vice President of Development James O'Connor after Holly's firing to organize a meeting to get an explanation of the decision. Pryor said O'Connor promptly replied with an "enthusiastic 'yes'" but offered only "a Sunday school answer" when she, Quinn and leaders of other supporters groups gathered with club executives.
"I could tell by the look on (former club President) Brad (Estes') face that it was something bad, but he knew he couldn't say anything," Quinn said. "With James, it was more of 'OK, yeah it's not that bad.' Brad let James deal with it, because he was the one directly responsible and dealing with the handling of this."
No criminal charges have been filed against Holly, who declined comment when reached by the Courier Journal on Monday. A Louisville Metro Police spokesperson on Tuesday said "no reports have been taken" in connection to the allegations.
What we know so far:Why did Racing Louisville FC fire Christy Holly? What was he accused of?
Yates and Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding LLP list Racing among the clubs that "did not fully cooperate" with their investigation. The report says Racing produced just 41 documents for investigators, "refused" to turn over other documents concerning Holly and "would not permit witnesses (even former employees) to answer relevant questions regarding Holly’s tenure, citing non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements" it signed with the former coach.
For Pryor, learning the club she and others vehemently support didn't fully cooperate with investigators hit the hardest.
"At some point, the NDA should have gone out the window," she said. "Who cares about an NDA when you're protecting someone who abused players?"
"We went out with the information that was given to us to try to say, 'Hey, the club fired him; they told us it wasn't anything bad; it's just that they had causes, they have a (non)-disclosure (agreement), and to not worry about it,' Quinn said. "We're out trying to help them do damage control not knowing what the real damage is, and so now we feel like we helped covered up a sexual predator.
"That's not a good feeling, because The Coopers have always been a community organization. We feel like we've not only let the teams down, but we let our community down because we didn't know so that we could have took the stance against this in the first place."
As of 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Racing had not yet responded to the Courier Journal's request for comment. The Lavender Legion, posted the following statement to its Twitter account Monday afternoon:
"While we process this horrifying information, we are still trying to find the right words.
"@RacingLouFC - fix this. Now.
"@JessicaBerman1 - fix this. Now.
"@NWSL - fix this. Now.
"#ProtectThePlayers at all costs."
On Tuesday morning, the Coopers' Twitter account shared a list of Racing's corporate sponsors to encourage their followers to "let them know how you feel after yesterday’s news."
"Perhaps you’d even want to suggest how the sponsors should respond themselves," the group wrote.
The tweet specifically names O'Connor, who replaced Estes as president of Racing and Louisville City through Soccer Holdings LLC. When asked if Holly's termination was linked to anything illegal, O'Connor said: "A great question. I don’t know whether I’d say illegal. I don’t know, that’s a subjective viewpoint, if you like. … I’ll plead the fifth. I’ll take the attorney line on that."
Pryor told the Courier Journal she and other Racing supporters are hoping their protest leads to "accountability" for those within the club who had a hand in enabling and perpetuating the allegations exposed in Yates' investigation. Those people, she said, "need to go."
"The Lavender Legion was founded on the premise that we support players first, no matter what," said Pryor, who mentioned boycotting merchandise and concessions as another form of protest supporters may take to get their point across. "I'm so proud of the players that spoke up in the investigation. I'm so proud of the former players who are speaking to media and people that want this information and this story to be heard.
"I want them to know that we are fighting and standing with them," she added. "We are angry with them. We are sad with them. We are heartbroken with them. I've always felt that love is not doing something for somebody. Love is doing something with somebody so they don't have to do it alone."
Quinn echoed Pryor's sentiment while explaining The Coopers' decision to attend Wednesday's match in protest instead of boycotting it entirely.
"This is nothing toward the players," he said. "This is the way to say to the ownership group that, 'Hey, we're not gonna take it, and we're not gonna stand for it; and as long as you're silent, we're gonna be silent.'"
Racing waived Simon in July, and she signed with Leicester City of the Women's Super League. Simon agreed to have her name published in the investigation and told ESPN through a spokesperson she wants to do "everything in my power to ensure that no other player must experience what I did."
"This report allows our voices to finally be heard and is the first step toward achieving the respectful workplace we all deserve," Simon said in a statement. "It is my sincere hope that the pain we have all experienced and the change we have all brought about will be for the good of our league and this game we all deeply love."
Reach recruiting and trending sports reporter Brooks Holton at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @brooksHolton.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Fans to protest handling of ex-Racing coach Christy Holly allegations