NYCFC admits ‘unacceptable’ behavior after probe

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New York City FC said it found “inappropriate and unacceptable” behavior after concluding its investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made by a former employee against former NYCFC forward David Villa and some others with the club.

In a statement given to ESPN, NYCFC broadly corroborated the allegations of the former employee but made no direct mention of Villa.

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NYCFC said that of the individuals found to have participated in the conduct, only one is still with the club and that person has been disciplined. In its statement, NYCFC didn’t specify the nature of the punishment.

“The allegations made during the course of the investigation were that a small number of players and staff did not act in accordance with the club’s standards in their interactions with the intern and with other club staff,” NYCFC said in its statement to ESPN.

“This behavior included unnecessary physical contact, teasing, and comments regarding clothing and appearance. The club found that this behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable.”

While the statement didn’t mention Villa by name, sources told ESPN that the investigation confirmed that Villa touched the employee in a way that was inappropriate and made the employee feel uncomfortable.

A representative for Villa declined to comment. Villa had previously denied the allegations, calling them “totally false.”

The former employee didn’t respond to ESPN’s request for comment via direct message.

The allegations first came to light in July, when the former employee, an intern on the club’s training staff, alleged that Villa made unwelcome physical contact with her.

The woman alleged that she rarely went a day without Villa “grabbing me or verbally harassing me but never bothered to learn my name.”

Previously, she had tweeted about a hostile work environment at NYCFC.

In its statement, NYCFC said that upon learning of the allegations it immediately opened an investigation via an external law firm. Sources said that those interviewed included 40 people, over half of whom were women. The interviewees included the former employee, those involved in the alleged harassment and a broader cross-section of employees not directly involved in the incidents. Sources also said that no one refused to cooperate, including Villa.

NYCFC also said it is in the process of taking corrective action in its work environment.

“NYCFC must continually strive to do better and maintain a workplace environment and culture that reflects the Club’s standards and values,” NYCFC said in its statement to ESPN.

“The Club is the process of implementing a series of changes within the organization aimed at ensuring that such behavior does not occur in the future, including: enhancing reporting processes for victims of misconduct; instituting enhanced education and awareness training on harassment and workplace conduct for all staff, including interns; improving the onboarding and training process for interns; and instituting clear protocols for investigating workplace misconduct.”