Houston Dash suspends head coach due to investigation into harassment

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The Houston Dash women’s soccer team has suspended its head coach, amid an internal investigation into abuse, discrimination and harassment, the team announced.

James Clarkson, the team’s head coach since 2018, was suspended “with immediate effect” and further action may be taken depending on the results of the joint investigation with the National Women’s Soccer League and NWSL’s Players Association, the team said in a statement.

“As an organization, our highest priority is to create and maintain a safe and respectful work environment for our players and staff, which we believe is crucial to our success on the field,” the team said in a statement on social media. “The club has provided counseling services to all interested members of the organization.”

James Clarkson from Houston Dash enters the field before a match between Houston Dash and Washington Spirit at Audi Field on October 31, 2021 in Washington, DC

James Clarkson from Houston Dash enters the field before a match between Houston Dash and Washington Spirit at Audi Field on October 31, 2021 in Washington, DC
(Photo by Trask Smith / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

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“The club will appoint an interim head coach in the coming days,” Dash added.

Dash’s investigation follows a series of player-coach complaints across the women’s football league, including a couple of layoffs in 2021.

Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson watches during a match between North Carolina Courage and Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson watches during a match between North Carolina Courage and Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
(Photo by Trask Smith / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

North Carolina Courage fired coach Paul Riley on charges of sexual misconduct against the players, and Washington Spirit fired coach Richie Burke on charges that he created a violent environment for the team. In Chicago, Red Stars coach Rory Dames resigned over several allegations of misconduct.

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A joint statement from the league and the players’ association called for Clarkson’s suspension in the middle of the ongoing investigation.

Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson smiles as he talks to Shea Groom # 6 in Houston Dash before a match between Portland Thorns FC and Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson smiles as he talks to Shea Groom # 6 in Houston Dash before a match between Portland Thorns FC and Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
(Photo by Trask Smith / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

“Players made a promise to ourselves and future generations to transform our league – not through words, but with our actions,” NWSLPA CEO Meghann Burke said in a statement, ESPN reported. “This shows that our joint study is carrying out the work of systemic transformation. The work continues and we commend players for speaking up and speaking out.”

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The Dash season kicks off Sunday, May 1, when they host the San Diego Wave.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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