MLS investigation concludes Whitecaps response to sexual misconduct allegations was 'adequate'

MLS investigation concludes Whitecaps response to sexual misconduct allegations was ‘adequate’

Editor’s note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be painful for some readers.

If you or someone you know needs support, those in Canada can find specific provincial centres, crisis lines and services. over here. For readers in America, a list of resources and references can be found for survivors and their loved ones over here.

An independent investigation has concluded that the Vancouver Whitecaps’ response to allegations of misconduct by former women’s coaches Bob Berarda and Hubert Busby Jr. was serious and “appropriate.”

But the report, prepared for Major League Soccer by attorneys Janice Rubin and Melody Jahanzada of Rubin Tomlinson LLP, says that while the club acted “quickly” in hiring an experienced workplace investigator, there were problems with the investigation itself. .

The report says that the initial investigation was “lacking rigor and depth.” And it ends some of the investigators’ findings that Berarda and Busby “seem too generous” despite evidence of their abuse of players.

It also says the Whitecaps could do more to support the players.

MLS hired a law firm in November to review how the Whitecaps handled sexual misconduct allegations against Berarda in 2008 and Busby in 2011.

Berarda also served as a coach for Canada’s women’s under-20 team, and a separate independent review released in late July concluded that Canada Soccer’s 2008 sexual harassment allegations against him were “misconduct.” do

In February, Berarda pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual assault for crimes committed between 1988 and 2008. His sentencing hearing continues on September 2.

Busby pressed a former player for sexual assault in 2011 when he was head coach of the Whitecaps women’s team. This allegation has not been tested in court.

Busby has denied the allegations.

Both coaches left the team as a result of the allegations.

“While there was a reduction in the 2008 and 2011 investigations, the actions of the Whitecaps indicate that they took the allegations seriously, and responded to them at the time by using an external investigator. Willingness to deny allegations,” reports Robin Tomlinson.

The report states that the Whitecaps today have strong measures in place “to ensure a safe environment, including well-developed policies and procedures, robust training, evaluation exercises for coaches, and confidential reporting lines.”

The report makes six recommendations “to improve and strengthen the (Whitecaps’) Safe Sport efforts.”

Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster said the club “appreciates the brave women who have spoken out and advocated for change publicly and behind closed doors.”

“While Robin Tomlinson’s report found that our organization took the allegations seriously and acted on the advice of an external investigator, it is clear that we could have done better, particularly in how we supported and communicated with his players,” Schuster said in a statement. . “To the women who were affected, to our staff, to the players and to the community, we are truly sorry.

“There is no place for sexual harassment or misbehavior of any kind in our organization. Athletes are the heart and soul of our organization, and everyone should be able to pursue their passion for sports in an environment that is safe, respectful and nurturing. “

A separate review — a 125-page report by McLaren Global Sports Solutions commissioned by Soccer Canada — paints a picture of a governing body “described by many as dysfunctional and ineffective,” with “high level with significant leadership turnover and transition.”In 2007 and 2008.

While McLaren’s report said Canada Soccer has “clearly made significant progress in improving its policies and procedures around bullying since 2008,” it says it has made significant progress in areas ranging from governance to conduct and player relations. 38 recommendations have been made.

The charges against Berarda came to light in May and September 2008. The Whitecaps hired an ombudsman from the Law Society of British Columbia, Ann Chopra, to investigate May’s complaint. Canadian Soccer and the Whitecaps jointly hired Chopra to investigate the second complaint.

In 2011, the Whitecaps hired the same investigator after allegations of inappropriate behavior by Busby toward a female player surfaced. While the results of that investigation were “inconclusive,” Busby’s contract with the Whitecaps was not new, the report said.

“Whitecap’s response to misconduct allegations against Mr. Berarda in 2008 and Mr. Busby Jr. in 2011 was appropriate,” the review said. “That is, they acted expeditiously by hiring an experienced workplace investigator in each instance, relied on the investigator’s judgment and demonstrated expertise, and adhered to all of the investigator’s recommendations as a result of each investigation. “

“Whitecaps did not try to deny or cover up the allegations, rather, they took them seriously, and actively ensured that the allegations were addressed, and included CSA where appropriate… In fairness, we did not think these concerns could be attributed to the Whitecaps investigation, given that they arose from the investigator’s decisions, on which the Whitecaps relied heavily for guidance,” the report added. do

Robin Tomlinson’s report suggests the results of Berarda’s initial investigation — that he receives one-on-one coaching and signs a commitment letter — “seem disproportionate to the severity of the issue — namely, that Mr. Berarda In a position as a coach, Force sent 7 sexually harassing messages to a young female athlete.

“We are questioning whether this was a reasonable offer,” it added.

It also noted that it could not review the 2008 separation agreement between Berarda, the Whitecaps and Canadian Soccer, because it was confidential, all parties to it had to agree to see it. The report says that only white caps are prepared for this task.

It also expressed “concerns” about some of the Whitecaps’ actions towards players, noting Berarda’s access to an apartment complex where some players lived was not evicted after the first set of allegations surfaced in May 2008. .

“To be fair to the club, they have clearly raised it with the investigator, and the investigator did not make such a recommendation. However, we consider it an oversight.”

And the report says the club, after Berarda’s departure in 2008, “seems to focus primarily on the needs of the Whitecaps and Mr Berarda. We believe more can be done to support the players.”

The review said the Whitecaps adopted a “more player-focused response” to the 2011 allegations against Busby.

Like the McLaren report, Robin Tomlinson’s review had difficulty finding people who agreed to be interviewed. While all current Whitecaps staff agreed to be interviewed, it said “regrettably” many others did not – including auditors in 2008 and ’11.

Fourteen people were interviewed, including three former players.

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