Client: Chicago Red Stars

Source: CBS Sports

The Chicago Red Stars have hired former U.S. Soccer chief legal officer Karen Leetzow as club president, the franchise announced on Wednesday. It’s the first sports executive hire announced by the Red Stars since their new ownership group, led by Laura Ricketts, took over the club in September. Her role with the club will begin on Dec. 4.

“Karen is a committed advocate for women in sports and her work with the U.S. Soccer Federation leadership team to create a new culture is beyond compare,” said Ricketts, the Red Stars principal owner.

“In her distinguished career she has gone beyond barriers and blazed a path for women to have a seat at the table of the C-suite of major sports enterprises and she has assured our athletes are protected and have a level playing field.”

During her time with U.S. Soccer, Leetzow oversaw the independent investigation into abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer. She helped federation leadership select former U.S. Justice Department official Sally Q. Yates to conduct the groundbreaking investigation. She also took a leading role in successful negotiations for an agreement to ensure equal pay for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join Laura Ricketts and her group of accomplished women business and civic leaders in changing the culture at the Chicago Red Stars and to build a championship organization on and off the pitch,” said Leetzow.

“It is an honor to work with Laura and the league to have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our athletes, team associates, and fans. I look forward to working with every team member in the business and technical staff of the Red Stars to achieve Laura’s goal of creating a championship culture of excellence and accountability.”

Leetzow previously served as NASCAR’s general counsel for two decades before joining U.S. Soccer as chief legal officer. Her role during the collective bargaining negotiations achieved parity in agreements for the men’s and women’s teams, not only in pay equity but provisions that aid player’s families.

She joins the club at a crucial time as the trade window is open and the free agency period is in full swing. The club dismissed former head coach Chris Petrucelli back in October and has yet to name a replacement while several Red Stars players are currently free agents. There are also multiple NWSL clubs that have head coaching vacancies, and the NWSL’s expansion draft is scheduled for Dec. 16. Fans can watch the event on CBS Sports Network.