Client: Chicago Red Stars

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Leetzow was hired by U.S. Soccer in 2020 and oversaw the independent investigation — conducted by former U.S. Justice Department official Sally Q. Yates — into systemic abuse and sexual misconduct that permeated the NWSL.

The Red Stars have a number of hires to make in their front office, and Wednesday they started from the top with the announcement of their new president, Karen Leetzow, who is the former chief legal officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

For years, Leetzow, who was hired by the federation in 2020, has had her attention on the Red Stars’ organization as she oversaw former U.S. Justice Department official Sally Q. Yates’ independent investigation into systemic abuse and sexual misconduct in the NWSL. Now, she’ll have an opportunity to be a key decision-maker in ensuring the club’s vision of establishing a championship culture becomes a reality.

“The things I’ve learned at U.S. Soccer over the years is that generally, there’s been a lack of understanding of what the players have needed to be successful,” Leetzow said. “In this particular case, we can take that on.”

Along with her role in Yates’ investigation, Leetzow contributed to the negotiations that led to the landmark equal-pay agreement for the U.S. women’s national team. Before her tenure with U.S. Soccer, Leetzow spent 20 years at NASCAR and was the first woman to serve as general counsel.

The move comes a little over a month after the dismissal of Chris Petrucelli as coach.

Petrucelli was hired last February after former coach Rory Dames resigned amid reports of abusive behavior, which were later corroborated in Yates’ report. Dames received a lifetime ban from the NWSL in January.

Finding the right coach and general manager is imperative to the club’s success as free agency officially began on Sept. 22. The NWSL expansion draft is scheduled for Dec. 16.

The Red Stars currently have nine free agents, including Tierna Davidson, whom the team drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, Mallory Swanson and Casey Krueger. All three players are unrestricted free agents. Players can begin signing new contracts Monday.

The Red Stars are well underway in their search for a new coach and general manager, but Leetzow had nothing to provide as far as a timeline for when those roles will be filled. She did say that owner Laura Ricketts is working in collaboration with current employees to make free-agency decisions.

“We have already been working hard to maintain the players that we want to keep and are working hard to supplement where we can,” Leetzow said.