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Whitecaps PR handling of abuse claims 'appropriate,' but could say more: expert

Last Updated Apr 29, 2019 at 12:57 pm PDT

FILE: Vancouver Whitecaps during their warm-up in BC Place in August, 2016. (Kayla Butler, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

A crisis communications expert is weighing in about how the Whitecaps have handled the situation

Alyn Edwards says overall the team has acted appropriately but adds the word ‘regret’ has been missing

The team hasn’t granted any interviews since abuse allegations against a former coach surfaced

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Whitecaps haven’t granted interviews since former women’s players came forward with abuse allegations against a former coach. We’re hearing from a crisis communications expert about the soccer club’s approach to this situation.

The decision to forward the allegations to the Vancouver Police Department does limit how much the soccer club can say, in the view of Alyn Edwards with Peak Communicators.

“The team, I believe, has acted appropriately,” Edwards said, referencing the club’s statements to date. “Anything beyond that would be to comment on particulars that should be part of a [potential] police investigation. I think that would be inappropriate. It’s a very precarious situation for any organization or any individual to defend their reputation in light of the #MeToo type of allegations.

RELATED: Some Whitecaps season ticket holders cancel over response to abuse allegations

“In some cases, the allegations are discovered to be unfounded. In other cases, they do lead to criminal charges, and they should — if there is evidence of inappropriate activities. The appropriate body to investigate is police.”

He says the main concern in granting interviews in these sorts of situations is that someone could say something that compromises a potential police probe.

“Anything that they say beyond [the already issued statements] could interfere with a [potential] investigation, could be viewed as self-serving and therefore be criticized, and really cause more reputational damage to the Whitecaps organization and [Canada Soccer],” Edwards said.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Abuse allegations rock Whitecaps

But Edwards does say the club’s statements are missing a word.

“The one word that I haven’t seen in everything they’ve put out is ‘regret’ — that this is regrettable,” he said. “I believe that they do regret — or should regret — any situation that has left 14 women feeling that they were sexually harassed while they were involved with the Whitecaps organization. That’s regrettable and I don’t see, or haven’t heard that word uttered by the Whitecaps organization. And I think it’s open for them to do that.”

RELATED: Police aware of abuse allegations against former Whitecaps women’s coach

Edwards says the Whitecaps could use the word “regret” without explicitly accepting responsibility or assigning guilt to the coach in question.

Former Whitecaps women’s players have claimed a coach touched at least one player inappropriately, sent sexual text messages to players and held private meetings in his apartment and hotel room — in one case, according to the claims, reminding a player she was not in the starting lineup and asking her what she was going to do about it.

RELATED: Whitecaps fans walk out mid-game for 2nd time in light of misconduct allegations

Some Whitecaps season ticket holders have told NEWS 1130 they plan to respond to how the club has handled the abuse allegations by cancelling their memberships.

The Whitecaps and Canada Soccer have repeatedly declined interviews on this topic since former players brought allegations forward in February.

RELATED VIDEO: Walkout at Whitecaps game

The coach at the centre of these allegations has not responded to our efforts to contact him.

None of these allegations have been tested in court. The Vancouver Police Department has said it is aware of the allegations outlined in blog posts by former players, but will not confirm whether or not it is carrying out an investigation.