Rory Dames out as Chicago Red Stars coach: Timeline of events for latest NWSL scandal

Longtime Chicago Red Stars head coach Rory Dames announced his resignation this week, following the team’s loss in the 2021 NWSL Championship on Saturday against the Washington Spirit. The news, which was issued via a midnight press release, initially came as a surprise.

Hours later, reports from the Washington Post detailed allegations from several sources about abusive behavior from Dames. The U.S. Soccer Federation was made aware of allegations in 2018 that prompted an investigation. Former players Christen Press, Jen Hoy, Samantha Johnson, and several other anonymous sources told stories of their time with Dames and the abusive experiences they witnessed. Dames is the fifth male NWSL coach to be accused of misconduct this year.

The reaction to the news is just the latest in an ongoing saga for a league that is already in the midst of ongoing investigations around former North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley after reports of sexual misconduct were published in September. Both Riley and Dames are also long-standing figures of prominent youth soccer club programs in the United States.

Here’s a timeline of notable dates in Dames’ tenure with the Red Stars. He was initially hired in 2011.

Rory Dames’ Red Stars timeline

2014: During a meeting with then-U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati, USWNT forward Christen Press brings concerns and allegations of a toxic environment that mirrored harassment, per the Washington Post. Press recalls and her allegations being dismissed, and she says she was told to continue play in the NWSL otherwise her spot on the national team would be jeopardized.

2018: After spending several years with the Red Stars organization, Press files a formal complaint to U.S. Soccer. In notes to the USSF, Press states “I think Rory emotionally abuses players …. 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 complaint leads to an investigation. Per sources with knowledge of the investigation, Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler was informed of some allegations as part of an interview. The club claims it never received a final report on the outcome of the investigation or official recommendations from U.S. soccer, but attempted to take steps to address concerns like shifting coaching responsibilities and player surveys.

February 2021: Dames enters his 10th year as head coach with the club as the team prepares for its longest season to date with training beginning in February.

August 2021: The club bids farewell to assistant coach Scott Parkinson after Parkinson accepts a head coaching role with NJ/NY Gotham FC. The announcement is largely met with positive reaction from players across the league, and viewed as a gain for Gotham’s coaching and a loss for Red Stars staff. 

September 2021: Reporting via The Athletic on former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley is published. The reporting details on sexual misconduct and coercion stem back to 2015 with former NWSL players speaking on the record. Riley is terminated by the club, and games are postponed in the wake of the story. 

October 2021: NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird resigns. Player demonstrations take place when games return, and the NWSL Players Association issues demands to the league. 

A committee is formed to lead a search for a new commissioner. Marla Messing is named as interim CEO. The players union announces that the league has met their demands, and continue ongoing CBA negotiations.  

Nov. 20, 2021: The Red Stars make their sixth consecutive playoff appearance under Dames. The team reaches the 2021 NWSL championship, with much of their roster facing injury, including key players impacted by COVID-19. The team loses in extra time to the Washington Spirit, 2-1. 

Nov 21: The Red Stars send a press release to their media list at 11:54 p.m. CT. The minutes-before-midnight release states that Dames has resigned as head coach of the Red Stars. His statement includes his next steps saying, “I’m refocusing my attention to my family and future endeavors, and I am resigning as coach of the Chicago Red Stars.” 

The release also includes a blanketed quote attributed to the club — not to Whisler — the clubs’ primary majority owner, “Under Rory’s leadership we have been a remarkably consistent and excellent club on the field. 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.”

The release ends with a closing remark on the future, concluding with “details regarding the search process and other changes to the organization will be made available soon.”

Chicago Red Stars website

Nov. 22: The Washington Post publishes reporting of complaints filed about Dames. The news sparks reactions from former players in both the professional and youth soccer levels. 

Nov. 22: Hours after Dames’ resignation and the reporting from the Post, the club releases an additional statement. It reveals that the club was in the process of an independent review stemming back several weeks, saying “Chicago Red Stars several weeks ago initiated an independent review of player health and safety and the team’s culture and work environment.”

Nov. 22: The NWSL Players Association releases a statement of support of the players, closing with “Nothing short of a complete transformation of our league will suffice.” 

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