Spirit soccer coach is accused of verbally abusing players

The coach of Washington Spirit soccer team has resigned just a day before a report says allegations of verbal and emotional abuse of players are being investigated by the National Women’s Soccer League and the Spirit’s ownership.

Katherine Reynolds resigned Tuesday, a day after the team’s female owners and management issued a statement saying they had received “concerns” about the coach’s behavior and wanted her to meet with their club’s ownership before making a decision on her future.

WUSA2.com, which obtained the audio recording from an anonymous source, says the concerns were outlined in an internal memo that the players were discussing during training. WUSA2.com identified the voice as the Spirit coach and declined to release the audio.

The memo contains six allegations against Reynolds, including allegations that she made “derogatory and demeaning comments” to the players; engaged in unwanted kisses and hugs; and told one player to “check up on him” after she told him to stop pushing her on the sideline during games. The memo alleges other players have complained about Reynolds’ behavior.

Spirit officials and the NWSL did not confirm that the team was investigating the coach’s conduct. But the league acknowledged it had a review underway and said the report, which it would not discuss because it’s an ongoing investigation, would be considered as part of its findings.

“While the NWSL does not comment on ongoing investigations, any reported allegations and/or disciplinary action we take on behalf of the league would be handled in the same manner as any other member club,” the league said in a statement.

Gerry Murphy, who is listed as owner of the Spirit in a Forbes report, said in a statement that he “followed established protocols by immediately and properly communicating with team leadership regarding the concerns they had regarding coach Reynolds and providing her with the opportunity to address the concerns directly with owners and the league.”

Murphy said the Spirit had followed “ideal practices of coach-employee communication in developing a mutual, trusting and productive workplace.”

The NWSL opened its 2016 season Sunday. The Spirit defeated Atlanta United 2-1 at Maryland SoccerPlex.

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