Former Whitecaps, BC Soccer, Canadian Soccer Association and Coastal FC Coach Bob Birarda was arrested this week.
Yet that is not what this blog is about. There’s not much more to say right now then 13 years after reporting his behavior for the first time, it is an incredible relief to see at least one of the many systems that failed myself and some of my teammates repeatedly, actually be functioning as it should.
Thank you to the police for their work, and to the brave women who have come forward. I pray that justice is served in the most healing way possible for those that have been affected.
An important and under-reported element of the story is the egregious the cover up of Birarda’s actions have been by the Whitecaps and Canadian Soccer Association. It also needs to be carefully investigated how he was able to coach teenage players at Coastal FC for years, despite wide spread rumors and knowledge of his behavior in the local and national soccer community.
How the health and well-being of children has been completely disregarded, so that these organizations could look to protect themselves first.
A lot of things happened behind the scenes in 2019 and were not reported on.
I plan on revealing some things that I think are of significance over the next few weeks to give people an understanding of the full scope of how willful the negligence and cover up truly was.
In my opinion it’s as big of a story as Birarda’s arrest itself, and one that we need to truly understand the factors, in order to make sure this never happens again.
The positive of the absolute dysfunction and willful negligence that allowed Birarda to act with impunity and clouded every aspect of this situation since 2007, is that it can act as a blueprint to show all that needs to be changed moving forward.
For if this is what it has taken to have brought this situation to light, I cannot imagine the amount of traumatized victims and carefree perpetrators that are out there.
I hope it will become clear that the system has failed and will continue to fail players as long as individuals within organizations are allowed individually decision make with no transparency or accountability + protect the reputations of their organizations first.
I hope a closer look at the cover up of the Birarda situation will hammer home the point that we need mechanisms for independent reporting and investigating such incredibly serious matters and laws that give jail time if cover-ups are so incredibly blatant.
I will start with the letter below that was sent to Greg Kerfoot (Whitecaps Owner), Rachel Lewis (COO) and Dan Lenarduzzi (Vice President, Soccer Development) on October 28, 2011.
Keep in mind, this coach, was charged this week with 9 different crimes against 4 victims.
Sit on this point for a minute and think about every kid in your life that you care about: Bob Birarda was allowed to stay on the field with full access to teenage girls for another 7.5 years after this letter was sent and 11 years after the club chose to “mutually” part ways with him publicly, despite learning of his sexual misconduct in 2008.
OCTOBER 28, 2011 LETTER
1) Greg Kerfoot (Whitecaps Owner)
2) Rachel Lewis (Whitecaps COO)
3) Dan Lenarduzzi, Whitecaps Vice President, Soccer Development)
Ciara McCormack <ci==@***.com>
To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Greg Kerfoot)
Fri., Oct. 28, 2011 at 1:22 p.m.
|Hi Greg, Rachel and Dan.I received an email from the new coach (coach’s name) this week, thanking me for my contributions to the club. As someone that has been with the club for the last ten years at various points, I felt compelled before walking away that you had the knowledge of my experience.I offer my experience for the sole purpose of making sure that things are better for the next generation.See the attached document.|
(ATTACHED DOCUMENT BELOW)
This week I received (name of new coach)’s email thanking me for my time with the club. I just felt like I wanted to address with the club my experience, from my involvement over the last 10 years, in order to give you feedback from someone that has seen it all, and give you information that hopefully will make it a better experience for the next generation.
My experience has not been a good one.
Because of standing up to coaches that your organization hired and didn’t monitor, whose behavior was highly unprofessional and unacceptable, I have had opportunities with 2 National Teams affected.
First with Bob Birarda. In 2007 after many months of witnessing and dealing with his unacceptable behavior, in April 2007, I sent an email to Bob Birarda, which I cc-ed to Bob Lenarduzzi, reaching out, hoping that the club would do something to help us. It clearly outlined many situations that were highly inappropriate in his conduct. At that time, Birarda had the role of Whitecaps head coach and Canadian National Team assistant.
Myself and another player, (name of other player) went to speak with Bob Lenarduzzi in confidence. This confidence was unfortunately betrayed when Lenarduzzi told Birarda that we had gone to speak with him. (Name of player) who stayed with the team in 2007, promptly was benched for the whole season, when she had started before- I knew there would be consequences once Birarda was aware we had gone to the club, and I went to Ottawa instead of dealing with Birarda.
With Birarda continuing with the Whitecaps and National Team in 2007 after we had reported our stories to the club via Lenarduzzi in April of 2007, neither (name of other player), nor I were ever invited back into train with the National Team, even though both of us had been in with the team for the 4 months prior to reporting his behavior. Hopefully it can be appreciated how much courage it took for both of us to come forward to say something, and how disappointing it was that we both clearly had our playing opportunities affected because of the power that Bob Birarda had and the fact that the club did nothing to protect us from reporting his behavior.
After hearing from my friends that remained on the Whitecaps for 2007, and on the Canadian U20 team, into 2008, how his behavior had escalated to further levels of inappropriateness, I was relieved when finally his behavior reached ears that cared to help us. As you know, a mediator was hired, and in September 2008, I gave the same account I had given Bob Lenarduzzi in April 2007, plus confirmed information that I had heard about inappropriate sexual behavior with U20 players in 2008, that was reiterated by others to the mediator. I was relieved, along with many of my soccer peers, to hear that Birarda finally had his contract terminated in 2008, and would no longer have the soccer aspirations of hard working players in his hands.
That being said, I, along with many other of my soccer peers, were absolutely alarmed and disgusted to hear that he is back in the community coaching 14 year old girls, whose parents have no knowledge of his behavior, knowing the information that no doubt played a role in his “mutual termination”. This is to me is gross negligence by the club to not take steps to ensure that he did not have the opportunity to be coaching girls again, or at the very least making sure the community knew the reasons why he was terminated with the Whitecaps and the National Team in the first place. To me, the organization chose to protect its reputation ahead of protecting players and parents who have no way of knowing what the mediator was told and the reasons behind his dismissal.
I tell you my story, only so you really know how vulnerable we are as female players and how much power these coaches have over us and our opportunities. I really hope the organization takes steps for the next generation of players to make sure none of them have to put up with the kind of nonsense that my generation has been forced to deal with. Quite frankly, we all give everything we have to the organization and the sport, and we deserve better.