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NWSL’s Wave Deny Allegations of Abusive Workplace Under Jill Ellis

July 5th, 2024

Former employees of the NWSL’s San Diego Wave have accused the team and its president, two-time World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s National Team soccer coach Jill Ellis, of fostering an abusive environment within the club—allegations the club denied.

In a social media post Wednesday, former club videographer Brittany Alvarado wrote that “over 30 employees have been fired or quit” since the team’s inception ahead of the 2022 NWSL season, “with 75% of them being women.”

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Alvarado’s post went on to allege that the NWSL, which was the focus of investigations alleging abusive workplaces in several of its clubs that concluded in 2022, “turned a blind eye to a pattern of profoundly damaging behaviors” in the Wave organization.

The treatment of employees under Ellis, Alvarado wrote, “has been nothing short of life-altering and devastating to our mental health,” going on to say “the league has failed to fully address and implement recommendations from the Sally Yates Report and the NWSLPA Joint Investigation from 2022,” which were designed to curb abuses in NWSL clubs.

In response, the Wave released a statement on its official social media accounts denying the allegations, saying the former employee’s posts contain “inaccurate and defamatory statements about the club” and “a fabricated email.”

The Wave post said the claims made were “categorically false,” including those directed at Ellis, and that the club “intends to pursue all legal avenues to appropriately address this matter.”

Alvarado posted what she said was a screenshot of an email from “a senior leadership member” of the Wave she received on June 17, 10 days after her resignation from the team. “You are the most pathetic person I’ve ever met,” the screenshot says. “We are estatic [sic] you are no longer with the club.”

Three other former Wave employees subsequently posted allegations of their own about abuse they said they experienced or observed while working for the club Wednesday night, including the former senior communications manager, Bernadette O’Donnell, who said she was fired after letting management know about the “unhealthy work environment” and her concerns for her own mental health.

The NWSL released a statement Wednesday saying: “The safety, health and well-being of everyone associated with our league is our highest priority. We take serious any and every report of potential misconduct, hire qualified independent investigators to review those allegations thoroughly and act when allegations are supported by the facts uncovered. We have mandated corrective action in every instance where reports have been corroborated, up to and including the removal of individuals who do not live up to our values and standards.”

The league also encouraged anyone with information about potential wrongdoing to contact the league safety officer, or to report it via an anonymous tip line.

The Wave was purchased this year by Lauren Leichtman and her husband Arthur Levine, partners at Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, from billionaire Ron Burkle in a deal valuing the club at $113 million. Burkle paid a $2 million expansion fee when the Wave joined the NWSL in 2021.

As first reported in Sportico, Leichtman and Levine paid $35 million for 35% of the club in March, with an agreement to buy the rest for $78 million after this season concludes in November.

Coming into this season, the Wave had been seen as a model franchise, with the second highest revenue in the league, a National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee in Ellis helming the front office and a popular coach in Casey Stoney, who guided the team to the NWSL Shield (for the best regular season record in 2023), consecutive NWSL semifinal playoff appearances in the club’s first two seasons and the NWSL Challenge Cup earlier this year.

But Stoney was fired last month amid a seven-game losing streak.

The allegations sent a jolt through the women’s soccer community, with Wave star Alex Morgan, who won two World Cups playing for Ellis on the USWNT, posting on X: “I am disappointed to hear about the allegations made by multiple former Wave FC employees today,” adding, “I want to be proud of what we are building at the Wave but it is clear that there is so much work to be done.”

Fellow USWNT player Sydney Leroux also publicly supported Alvarado on X.

The Wave play their next regular season game against the Thorns in Portland on Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

With assistance from Luke Cyphers.

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This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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