One of my first roles when I started at Hot Time, was covering the Red Stars and the newly created NWSL. Every home game, I’d trundle down 355 to Lisle in my beat-up Toyota to watch Lori Chlupny, Karina LeBlanc, and Christen Press ply their trade in the fledgling league still feeling the aftereffects of the collapse of the WPS three years earlier.
Despite moving away from the beat in 2016, I’ve always kept an eye on the club, partly as a palette cleanser for oftentimes despicably poor Chicago Fire sides, but partly because I could be a fan, rather than a journalist or pundit. And right now, speaking as a fan, what’s going on with the organization sucks.
For those of you who are blissfully unaware, former Red Stars head coach Rory Dames stepped down at the end of the 2021 season due to allegations of abuse. US Soccer appointed an investigator after this and other accusations from other clubs (Most notably the Portland Thorns). That investigation was revealed to the public today. And the results are damning.
Not only did Rory Dames do all of the things he was accused of, and more, but the majority shareholder and owner of the team Arnim Whistler knew about it. The report details how Arnim was told multiple times by multiple players about who Rory Dames was and either ignored or dismissed their claims outright. Despite a 2014 player survey detailing the abusive environment, he was always defensive of his head coach. The report also includes a paragraph of Arnim himself allegedly acting inappropriately with front office staff. It’s all very gross and disgusting, and you don’t have to read the whole thing to understand the serious wrongness Arnim and Rory Dames caused this club.
It’s beyond past time for Arnim Whistler to become a footnote in the history of the Chicago Red Stars. They both should have gone in 2014 when players first raised concerns, but the systemic failure of Arnim— the defending of Rory while being allegedly fully aware of what a monster he was, was inexcusable and damning. Arnim Whistler must be forced out by either the other shareholders of the club or the NWSL itself. The team must cleanse itself and be reborn.
I must admit to feeling some guilt here as well. As a journalist at the time, I feel at least slightly culpable for not trusting my instincts at the time and doing something, anything, to bring a portion of this to light. So to Christian Press, Vinessa DiBernardo, and everyone who I failed on those Red Stars teams, I deeply apologize.
To Arnim directly. Sell your shares of the club and fly off to Costa Rica or wherever abuse enablers go to hide away in shame. Just get the hell away from my club. And don’t come back. if you care at all about the well-being of the club, its fans, its players, and its office staff, and aren’t just another rich child who doesn’t want to let go of their favorite toy, leave.
Sell the team.