Client: Chicago Red Stars

Source: Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Red Stars have a new team president.

Sports executive and attorney Karen Leetzow joined the franchise after serving as the chief legal officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Red Stars announced Wednesday. With U.S. Soccer, Leetzow oversaw the independent investigation into abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer. She also helped lead the negotiations for an agreement to ensure equal pay for the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

U.S. Soccer hired Leetzow in July 2020 after she spent 20 years with NASCAR, with whom she became the first woman to serve as its general counsel.

Leetzow oversaw former U.S. Justice Department official Sally Q. Yates’ investigation with her findings outlined in an October 2021 report that highlighted the abusive behavior toward female soccer players, leading to changes that included some coaching dismissals and the U.S. Soccer Federation implementing safety reforms in youth and women’s soccer.

The Red Stars, who finished 7-12-3 and in last place in the NWSL, still need to hire a general manager and coach. Free agency begins Monday.

Creating a culture of respect within the Red Stars organization and team has been a priority for principal owner Laura Ricketts since the group she spearheaded bought the team in September.

“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,” Ricketts said in a statement. “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.”

Leetzow will begin her new position Dec. 4.

“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,” Leetzow said in a statement. “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.”