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Whitecaps’ response to misconduct allegations was appropriate, review says

Whitecaps’ response to misconduct allegations was appropriate, review says

  • MLS releases findings of independent investigation into club
  • US player Malloree Enoch detailed allegations to the Guardian

Major League Soccer has released the findings of an independent investigation into the Vancouver Whitecaps organization’s handling of allegations of misconduct brought by members of the Whitecaps’ women’s team against former coaches Bob Birarda and Hubert Busby.

The independent review, conducted by Janice Rubin and Melody Jahanzadeh of Rubin Thomlinson LLP, “found that the Whitecaps’ response to the allegations was appropriate and that the club acted expeditiously to hire an experienced workplace investigator, relied on the investigator’s judgment, and adhered to all of the investigator’s recommendations”, according to an MLS statement on Thursday afternoon.

US player Malloree Enoch detailed allegations of inappropriate behavior by Busby between 2010 and 2011 in an interview with the Guardian. Enoch said Busby promised to sign her as a player, then repeatedly made her room with him on trips and eventually attempted to pressure her for sex.

Enoch said she shared her concerns with Dan Lenarduzzi, the team’s soccer development director, after signing in 2011, but no action was immediately taken. Enoch said it culminated in a group of players bringing their concerns about Busby and their overall treatment as players to management.

Busby’s contract with the now-defunct Whitecaps women’s team expired in October 2011. He was appointed head coach of Jamaica’s women’s team in January 2020.

In 2019, former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack detailed alleged abuse by Birada, with others coming forward with similar accusations.

Birada, a former Canadian national team coach, was let go by the Whitecaps in 2008 after an internal investigation. He is currently facing charges including six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring, involving allegations spanning 20 years from 1998-2008.

Rubin and Jahanzadeh acknowledge at the outset of the review that they “did not interview as many former players as we would have liked” despite their best efforts and relied largely on the accounts of current and former Whitecaps employees.

“We commend the brave women who have spoken up and been fierce advocates for change both publicly and behind closed doors,” Axel Schuster, the chief executive officer of the Whitecaps, said in a statement. “We look forward to working hand in hand with our players and the soccer community to move the club forward and ensure respect and dignity are embedded into the DNA of our organization.”

Schuster added: “We have supported this investigation from the outset and are driven by our commitment to fostering a culture of zero tolerance for any form of harassment or bullying. While Rubin Thomlinson’s report found that our organization took the allegations seriously and acted on the expert advice of an external investigator, it’s clear that we could have done better, especially in how we supported and communicated with our players. To the women who were affected, our staff, players, and community, we are truly sorry.”

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