Former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames has been accused of verbal and emotional abuse by several players, the day after he resigned as coach of the National Women's Soccer League side.
The news of Dames' resignation came less than 48 hours after his team were runners-up in the NWSL championship final, losing 2-1 to Washington Spirit.
Dame's exit on Sunday is the latest NWSL coaching change this year -- nine so far -- in a season that has been marked by turmoil. In a news release issued just before midnight local time Sunday, the Red Stars said Dames had stepped down and a search for a replacement would begin.
"Under Rory's leadership we have been a remarkably consistent and excellent club on the field," the release said, attributing the quote to "the Chicago Red Stars" rather than a club owner or executive.
"We continually evaluate our team and front office environment, and given the dynamic change underway in the league, it is time to begin the next chapter of the Red Stars with a search for new leadership of the team."
While the Red Stars did not specify the circumstances of Dames' resignation in that initial release, The Washington Post reported Monday that it was prompted by an investigation into his behavior. Players including U.S. national team star Christen Press had reported Dames to the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2018, according to the report.
"I think Rory emotionally abuses players," Press wrote in a formal complaint seen by The Post. "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."
The team then released a statement later in the day that read: "We stand with the players who are fiercely advocating for change, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure a safe environment for the league's players, staff, volunteers and fans.
"In conjunction with our players, the Chicago Red Stars several weeks ago initiated an independent review of player health and safety and the team's culture and work environment. We intend to implement any recommendations in that review that will strengthen our ability to empower our players, to ensure that everyone's voice is heard, and to foster an environment of continual growth."
The NWSL Players Association (NWSLPA) also released a statement in support of those who had brought allegations against Dames.
"This type of coaching has no place in the NWSL, youth soccer or anywhere else. We stand with Christen Press, Jen Hoy, Sam Johnson and any player who comes forward to speak out against abuse of any kind," the statement read.
"We have said it before and will say it again now: the system has failed us. Through our investigation, we will seek out the root causes of these systematic failures to prevent this from happening to future generations.
"Nothing short of a complete transformation of our league will suffice."
Dames would be the fifth male coach ousted for alleged misconduct in what has been a long line of coaching changes this season in the NWSL. Of the NWSL's 10 teams this season, only one has kept its coach for the entirety of 2021 so far: the Houston Dash with coach James Clarkson.
Dames had been the Red Stars' only coach in the NWSL, joining the club in 2011 before the NWSL's 2013 launch. Under Dames, the Red Stars reached the playoff finals in both 2019 and 2021, and reached the final of the 2020 pandemic tournament called the Challenge Cup, losing all three.
"For 11 years, I have dedicated myself to help build the Chicago Red Stars into one of the top international clubs," Dames said in Sunday's release. "Effective today, I'm refocusing my attention to my family and future endeavors, and I am resigning as coach of the Chicago Red Stars. I'd like to thank the Chicago Red Stars organization, the fans and the players who I have had the opportunity to work with in their professional soccer careers."
Sarah Spain, an ESPN commentator and radio host, has an ownership stake in the Red Stars.
Saturday's NWSL championship game closed a tumultuous ninth season for the league. The Spirit played under an interim coach, Kris Ward, after Richie Burke was fired in September for violating the league's anti-harassment policy.
Games were cancelled last month as players protested the handling of the allegations against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, and they set forth a list of demands via their union, the NWSL Players Association. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned last month after striker Alex Morgan revealed that Baird declined to reinvestigate Riley.