by Paul Kennedy

Englishman James Clarkson, who led the Houston Dash to the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup title and is the only current NWSL head coach who was in his or her current job at the start of the 2021 season, has been suspended from his positions as head coach and general manager pending the conclusion of an investigation into alleged violations of NWSL workplace policies.

This suspension was recommended by the NWSL-NWSLPA Joint Investigative Team in connection with its ongoing investigation into discrimination, harassment, abuse and bullying within the NWSL, which began in October 2021 following revelations about North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley, who was fired.

The NWSL retained law firm Covington & Burling while Weil, Gotshal & Manges has been working on behalf of the NWSLPA. They are investigating allegations of workplace misconduct toward NWSL players, as well as systemic issues in the NWSL that impact the prevention, detection and response to misconduct.

Since the investigation began, the NWSL expanded player protections in the NWSL Policy to Prevent and Eliminate Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying.

“As it relates to this particular situation,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman in a statement, "I want to thank the individuals who brought their concerns to the Joint Investigative Team, as well as [Dash owner] Ted Segal, [Dash president] Jessica O’Neill and the Dash organization for taking swift action, and for their cooperation with the Joint Investigative Team’s recommendation. I want to thank the players and staff throughout the league who have participated in the overall investigation thus far, and assure them, as well as our fans and partners, that we will deliver on our promise to create a workplace where players and staff are empowered to succeed in a healthy and safe environment.”

Clarkson, 50, originally joined the Houston Dynamo academy in 2006. He was named the Dash head coach ahead of the 2019 season. In two seasons, the Dash went 7-12-5 (2019) and 9-10-5 (2021). It won the 2020 Challenge Cup, the first U.S. pro competition to take place when play resumed following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

The Dynamo ownership launched the Dash in 2014. It has failed to make the NWSL playoffs in all seven seasons.

The Dash will name an interim coach in the coming days. It opens the 2022 regular season on Sunday against the expansion San Diego Wave.