Former Whitecaps women’s players to call for firing of executives over handling of abuse claims

Former members of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian women’s national teams are calling for the firings of executives they say misrepresented the departures of two coaches accused of abuse.

These retired women’s players will publicly call for the dismissals this week, as was first reported by the Guardian newspaper.

This comes after former Whitecaps women’s player Malloree Enoch came forward last week with disturbing detailed allegations against her former coach, Hubert Busby Jr.

It also comes as former coach Bob Birarda faces criminal charges in relation with other claims.

In a statement to CityNews, the players say they are “looking for real systemic and cultural change to come from what has happened to us.”

“There’s no way that can happen with the same people in charge that oversaw and covered up 3 sexual misconduct cases in 10 years,” the players say, adding a more comprehensive statement will be released in the days to come. “While we think it’s important for the MLS to take interest, their investigation will focus on their leagues (sic) interests. Our statement will reflect what we believe are the steps forward necessary to have transparency and accountability for the 2008 and 2001 coverups … and protect players moving forward.”

When both Busby Jr. and Birarda left the Whitecaps or Canada Soccer, the phrasing in neither case detailed the reasons why. There was no mention of any of the allegations we have since learned about after these women came forward with their stories, starting in 2019.

According to the U.K. outlet, the women will be supported by Canada’s Professional Footballers Association. The Guardian is also suggesting there will be a call for Victor Montagliani — FIFA’s East-Vancouver-raised vice president — to be suspended while an independent investigation takes place.

Busby Jr. was announced as the Whitecaps women’s team head coach in late 2009. He and the Whitecaps parted ways in October 2011 after the team announced his contract had expired and would not be renewed.

Last week, the Whitecaps placed a number of higher ups — all of whom were “involved in these matters” — on leave while Major League Soccer investigates the handling of Busby Jr.’s 2011 departure.

“The investigation will include a review of the club’s internal processes and overall culture at the time as well as recommendations on preventative measures to ensure that all players and staff under the Whitecaps organization umbrella work in a safe environment, free of all forms of harassment and fear of retaliation,” a statement from the league reads.

Though the Whitecaps have not named the executives in question, Bob and Dan Lenarduzzi, Rachel Lewis, and Greg Anderson were all with the club during 2010/11 period and are currently listed as members of the executive team.

In a statement, also released Friday, Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster issued an apology and commended Enoch for coming forward.

“The courage it takes to come forward cannot be overstated. We respect Malloree’s bravery, appreciate her honesty, and support her entirely. We apologize to Malloree for letting her down,” Schuster said.

Enoch, who first spoke with the Guardian, brought forward claims of abuse against Busby Jr. last week.

He is accused of trying to solicit sex from the player, who was 26 years old at the time, during the recruitment process around a decade ago.

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She says while she was trying to get on the team at the time, the coach had her fly to various locations and when she would arrive, he would say due to a booking issue, only one room had been reserved.

“I still feel the emotions today,” Enoch told CityNews on Thursday, Oct. 28, adding she struggled at one point with whether she even wanted to return to the sport.

“I really, actually, didn’t ever want to play soccer again,” she said, choking back tears. “I even have a hard time watching fellow players. It’s just ruined the game for me.”

In addition to the allegations levelled against Busby Jr., Enoch claims the team essentially tried to muzzle the players, saying the Whitecaps organization “threatened us to not go public,” pointing to a letter sent from Dan Lenarduzzi, who was part of the leadership team at the time in 2011.

While he no longer works for the Whitecaps organization, Busby Jr., who denies the claims against him, now coaches the Jamaican women’s national team.

The Jamaica Football Federation has said it is aware of the allegations he is facing, and that the organization plans to “discuss the matter” with Busby Jr. on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Birarda is set to make an appearance in court this month after he was charged in December 2020 with multiple sexual offences against four people spanning two decades.

He was due to appear in court in early October, however, that date has been delayed two — first until Oct. 28, and once again until Nov. 25.

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