'They need to clean house': Former captain of NWSL team responds to Christy Holly investigation

Racing Louisville FC's former captain says she feels as manipulated by the soccer club as she does Christy Holly, a coach accused of sexually assaulting one player and verbally abusing others while leading the National Women's Soccer League team in its first year in 2021.

"I think the thing that has really been hard for me to grapple with was how much the club made us stay silent," goalkeeper Michelle Betos said Tuesday, following the release of an explosive investigation into misconduct across the league.

"They need to clean house."

Betos' comments echo those of fans who have expressed anger with Racing's ownership in the wake of the investigation, conducted by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on behalf of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

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Goalkeeper Michelle Betos (1) played for Racing Louisville FC last season. She's now plays for NJ/NY Gotham FC. Betos is seen here in an Oct. 9, 2021 NWSL match against Washington.
Goalkeeper Michelle Betos (1) played for Racing Louisville FC last season. She's now plays for NJ/NY Gotham FC. Betos is seen here in an Oct. 9, 2021 NWSL match against Washington.

In an 172-page report, investigators wrote Holly sexually assaulted former defender Erin Simon during a one-on-one film session in April 2021. He also verbally and emotionally abused players, including "joking about ripping up" a player's contract.

What we know so far:Why did Racing Louisville FC fire Christy Holly? What was he accused of?

Holly was fired in August 2021, the same day Racing executives learned he had sexually harassed Simon, the investigation stated. And details of his departure remained private until the report's release.

But Betos said players knew why Holly was fired – and were asked not to say anything publicly.

In a meeting with the team, Betos said the club's leadership "told us that in the best interest of Erin, we should not speak on the subject. We have to keep it in-house. ... At the end of the day, everyone was committed to protecting our teammate.

"I still don't even know if that's real."

Betos now plays for NJ/NY Gotham FC and said her experience with the league has made her question everyone's intentions. Though she said she was never abused by Holly, she believes he manipulated her into being "blind to what was going on." And she regrets not knowing sooner what her teammates were going through.

Early into the team's season, Betos said, several players complained about Holly to James O'Connor, now president of Soccer Holdings, which owns Racing and Louisville City FC.

"James acted in a way that sided with Christy, which resulted in the girls being treated worse," she said. "It created a culture where there was no space or good reason to complain about issues."

Former Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly stands before an NWSL game between North Carolina Courage and Sky Blue FC in 2017 at Sahlen's Stadium. Racing fired Holly "for cause" in August 2021.
Former Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly stands before an NWSL game between North Carolina Courage and Sky Blue FC in 2017 at Sahlen's Stadium. Racing fired Holly "for cause" in August 2021.

"I feel like the hardest part for me is knowing these girls had issues and didn't feel like they could come to me as a captain or had a place to go," she added. "No one felt comfortable coming to me or anyone else."

Racing representatives have not responded to requests for comment about the investigation.

More on the report:Investigation finds ‘systemic’ abuse of players, while NWSL, USSF stayed silent

Betos said she hopes the NWSL and individual clubs take quick action.

A second investigation from the league and its players association is still underway. But Betos said teams shouldn't wait to hold people accountable for allowing abuse to happen.

"Everything is out there, it's written on paper," Betos said. "There's not going to be anything that changes what they just saw."

If fans want to support players, Betos added: "Reach out to your players. Tell them you support them. Fans have more power than they realize. I think they should leverage their power. At the end of the day, without players and without fans this league doesn’t run."

Follow reporter Bailey Loosemore on Twitter @bloosemore. 

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Christy Holly investigation: Racing Louisville should 'clean house'