We don’t like life getting in the way of our sports.
Sports are supposed to shield us from the day-to-day irritations and stresses. They are our escape. So, when “real life” sneaks its way onto the playing fields many get angry.
“STICK TO SPORTS,” is the cry when someone tries to start a conversation about more serious topics. That’s a best case response. Worse?
“YOU’RE LYING/EXGGERATING/NEED TO SUCK IT UP.”
Often the voices calling to be heard are shouted down by those that just want to cheer.
We see this in soccer all the time, especially as it relates to racism. And, of course, as always, anything that has to do with women. It’s toxic when fans do this. It destroys lives when institutions do it.
Such is the case of Bob Birarda and the accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment made against him by, so far, 12 different women who were coached by him while part of the Canadian u20 program and Vancouver Whitecaps elite women’s team. The alleged incidents took place in and around 2008.
The 12 women came forward after Ciara McCormack published a blog detailing the abuse of power she witnessed while at the Whitecaps at that same time.
I won’t go into the details here as it is better stated by the 12 women and McCormack, but suffice to say it was horrific.
It also wasn’t a surprise to anyone that has been around Canadian soccer over the past decade. I first heard a version of this story about nine years ago. It’s been whispered by those “in the know” for years.
Yet, nothing ever was said publicly. Worse, nothing was done privately either. Prior to the accusations finally becoming public Birarda was still coaching women’s soccer for the club Coastal FC. He’s since been suspended by the club pending review of the accusations.
Over the past while, I’ve been thinking about why I never wrote or talked about these accusations publicly over the last decade. A fear of being sued likely played a role, but I was involved with a show in It’s Called Football (along with this website) that went after matchfixing (Ben Rycroft’s reporting leading the way), corruption in minor soccer (hello, Ben Knight) and talked openly about potential improprieties in Mo Johnston’s relationship with certain player agents.
In a previous job, I wrote a story accusing the Northern Ontario Minor Hockey Association of systemic racism against aboriginal players.
So, I’ve pushed the boundaries as a journalist before. Why didn’t I here?
I should have. And, I apologize for not doing so.
The question is one that I don’t yet know the answer to. But, it’s one that I, and everyone who heard the same whispers, needs to keep asking themselves so that it never happens again.
Ciara McCormack will be a guest on SoccerToday on Monday, live at 11am ET @SoccerTodaySPN
Edited by Duane Rollins