NWSL team denies abuse allegations, threatens legal action

San Diego Wave FC threatened legal action against a former employee who accused the NWSL club and its president, former USWNT head coach Jill Ellis, of abusive behavior. 

Brittany Alvarado, former video and creative manager for the Wave, posted to X on Wednesday what appears to be a redacted screenshot of an abusive email she received from a “senior leadership member” alongside a statement accusing the club of demonstrating “a pattern of profoundly damaging behaviors.”

San Diego said that the club became aware of a ‘social media post by a former employee that contains inaccurate and inflammatory statements about the club” in a statement posted to the club’s X account on Wednesday. 

“Not only does the post contain a fabricated email, but the claims therein are categorically false, including the one directed at our president Jill Ellis,” the statement read. “San Diego Wave FC currently is reviewing this situation and it intends to pursue all legal avenues available to appropriately address this matter.” 

The NWSL also released a statement about the situation: ‘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. 

‘We encourage anyone with information of potential wrongdoing to report that misconduct to the League Safety Officer. Alternatively, individuals may report anonymously via Real Response, by texting 872-259-6975.’

In her statement, Alvarado said that “despite its public proclamations, [the Wave] perpetuated discrimination against women and demonstrated a complete disregard for their long-term mental health.”

Alvarado singled out Ellis, who she said “has no place in this game,” and called upon the NWSL to “take immediate action to remove Jill Ellis from both the San Diego Wave and the league entirely to finally protect the staff and players they have neglected and ignored for far too long.”

“On behalf of myself and my former colleagues, the treatment we endured under club president Jill Ellis has been nothing short of life-altering and devastating to our mental health,” Alvarado said. “She has comprised countless lives to advance her narcissistic personal agenda, fostering an environment where abusive behaviors among her subordinates are allowed to flourish.”

Alvarado also criticized what she described as the NWSL’s failure to “take meaningful action” to address her complaints about “these pervasive issues” in the past. 

“[The NWSL’s] investigations into these matters were notably negligent, further exacerbating the disregard for the well-being of those affected,” Alvarado said. 

These allegations come almost three years after players and former players came forward with widespread accounts of pervasive, systemic abuse and sexual misconduct committed against several teams’ players and staff at the hands of their coaches and general managers. 

Following the 2021 abuse revelations, U.S. Soccer commissioned the Sally Yates Report, a 300-page document detailing allegations and recommending actions for the league and U.S. Soccer in the wake of the scandal. Alvarado accused the NWSL of failing to “fully address and implement” these recommendations.

“Every day of inaction further validates the dangerous illusion that the NWSL has properly addressed the pervasive issue of abusive leadership,” Alvarado said.

According to the Sally Yates Report, former USWNT players made JIll Ellis aware of abuse allegations against former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames during her tenure as USWNT head coach from 2014 to 2019. No decisive action was taken to remove him at the time. 

Alvarado also posted what she described as an email she received from a “senior leadership member” 10 days after her resignation as what she characterized as an example of “the exact behaviors and personnel that have been consistently enabled under Jill Ellis’s presidency.” The image appears to call Alvarado “pathetic” with “no sense of work ethics or integrity.” 

“It is time for accountability and decisive action to safeguard the well-being of everyone involved in this sport,” Alvarado said. 

Another former San Diego Wave employee, Jenny Chuang, said that she was placed on suicide watch when she worked as a club photographer for the team in 2022, but said that “the individuals who made [her] suffer no longer work at the Wave.”

“I begged for help while my mental health declined rapidly, but was pressured to resign instead. After a failed attempt, I left to save myself,” Chuang wrote on X. “It breaks my heart that nothing has changed in the past 2 years.”

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