Houston Dash coach, GM James Clarkson suspended amid abuse investigation

Houston Dash general manager and head coach James Clarkson was suspended on Tuesday amid an investigation into complaints against him of discrimination, harassment and abuse, the team announced.

The Dash are set to open their season Sunday against the San Diego Wave, and are expected to name an interim coach in the coming days.

The team said it suspended Clarkson after receiving initial findings from an investigation launched by the National Women’s Soccer League and the NWSLPA last year. A decision about Clarkson’s future will be made at the conclusion of the investigation.

“As an organization, our highest priority is creating and maintaining a safe and respectful work environment for our players and staff, which we believe is critical to our success on the pitch,” the team said in a statement. “The club has made counseling services available to all members of the organization interested.”

Clarkson, 50, has been with the team since it was founded in 2014, and was hired as its head coach in 2018. The specific complaints and allegations made against him are not known.

The suspension and investigation come after several similar complaints throughout the NWSL in recent years. North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley was fired last year after sexual misconduct allegations, which led to the resignation of then-league commissioner Lisa Baird.

Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke was fired last year, and then owner Steve Baldwin moved to sell the team after similar abuse allegations. Chicago Red Stars coach Roy Dames also resigned in November after allegations of verbal abuse.

Those issues led to a league-wide protest and a list of demands from players, who mainly called for full league-wide cooperation and transparency when it comes to similar allegations.

“Players made a promise to ourselves and future generations to transform our League – not through words, but with our actions,” NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke said in a statement. “This shows that our joint investigation is doing the work of systemic transformation. The work continues, and we commend Players for speaking up and speaking out.”

Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson
James Clarkson is being investigated to "review current and historic complaints of discrimination, harassment and abuse." (Trask Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)