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Did FC Kansas City owner send suggestive emails about female players?

Details came to light after the team’s ownership split during a legal battle

UPDATED: The Likens have released their own statement about the allegations, saying, “We are going to reach out to Excelle regarding slander, as they obviously haven’t confirmed their sources. Brian has sent this article to other media sources who have refused to publish anything due to no corroboration.”

Chris Likens, a part of the FC Kansas City ownership group, allegedly sent sexually suggestive emails about female soccer players in 2013 as he and his partners were setting up FCKC, according to a former employee at another company owned by Likens and his sons.

Likens and his sons, Brad and Greg Likens, are part of an ownership group with Brian Budzinksi. They also own the Missouri Comets, who play in the Major Arena Soccer League and were formerly coached by FCKC’s Vlatko Andonovski. Andonovski recently stepped down from coaching the Comets in order to focus on coaching FCKC.

An article in the Kansas City Business Journal detailed a complaint by Budzinski that he wanted to know “whether Brad and Greg Likens used the Comets' computers and servers to transmit scantily attired and suggestively posed pictures of FC Kansas City's female players in a way that created a hostile and discriminatory work environment.” This complaint is part of a larger lawsuit between Budzinski and the Likens over management decisions.

In the emails, dated January 4, March 26, and October 21 of 2013, Chris Likens includes images of scantily-clad players and refers to them in demeaning ways.

In the March 26, 2013 email, he attached several images of scantily-clad female players including Australia’s Amy Taylor, Canada’s Justine Bernier, and Sweden’s Josefine Oqvist. He wrote about each woman wanting to “play on Chris’s new team” which “I am coaching myself.” Of Bernier, he wrote “though last year’s record was 6-6-2, she’s still really, really hot...”

In the January 4 email, Chris Likens implies that he has soccer players living in his barn and writes “I ride everything every chance I get.”

Apparently MASL has had issues with shady ownership before, as when the Seattle Impact’s owner was accused of sexually assaulting two female employees in 2014. According to that article, another owner who was considering joining MASL declined to join due to insufficient background checks on owners.

This is a bad look for the National Women’s Soccer League, which was supposed to have learned its lesson about toxic owners in WPS. And to be fair, perhaps the ownership group for FCKC checked out in terms of being financially stable and not having an obvious criminal record. A lot of “nice guys” end up being creeps, with their friends having been completely unaware. But according to another anonymous source, the Likens are seen as “creepy” by at least one person close to the team, so their behavior seemingly carries over to in-person interactions.

Once again, being creepy isn’t exactly justification for getting tossed out of the league, and without a player or front office employee complaint until now, perhaps NWSL really was just unaware. But now that more evidence has come to light, at the very least this will hopefully spur an investigation and help create a healthier work environment for everyone at FCKC, perhaps under new ownership. Calling Sporting KC?