US Soccer has exonerated former US Men’s National Team manager Gregg Berhalter after an independent investigation revealed he is not a threat, the federation said in a statement Monday.
The investigation began in December after the parents of forward Gio Reyna reported that Berhalter kicked his now-wife Rosalind Berhalter in a 1992 incident when they were both freshmen soccer players at North Carolina. Danielle Reyna was Rosalind’s roommate and friend at the time. US Soccer said that, upon conclusion of the investigation, Berhalter is a candidate to coach the team again and that it will reevaluate its parent conduct policy.
“Given the investigators’ conclusion that there is no legal impediment to employing him, Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to serve as head coach of the Men’s National Team,” the statement said. “The report also identifies a need to revisit US Soccer’s policies concerning appropriate parental conduct and communications with staff at the National Team level. We will be updating those policies as we continue to work to ensure safe environments for all participants in our game.”
Former assistant coach Anthony Hudson is currently the interim coach for USMNT.
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After conducting interviews with 16 voluntary witnesses — including the Berhalters and Reynas — and reviewing public documents, emails and text messages, the investigation confirmed that the coach had kicked his then-girlfriend during a drunken fight, but said that the USMNT was in the clear for hiring Berhalter in 2018. The report said that the incident happened well before Berhalter took the head coach position and he had previously expressed remorse for his action, which was found to be an isolated incident.
“We considered whether a plaintiff could bring claims for (1) harassment or a hostile work environment; or (2) negligent hiring or retention. We do not believe the facts give rise to these or any similar claims against US Soccer,” the report said. “We are not aware of any legal theory that could hold an employer liable for an incident that (1) occurred more than 25 years before he joined the organization; and (2) was not repeated at any subsequent time. …
“Mr. Berhalter does not pose a danger to anyone at US Soccer. In light of these facts, there is no basis to conclude that employment of Mr. Berhalter in 2023 presents a risk of civil liability for US Soccer or any other organization.”
Report finds Reynas at fault for misconduct
Claudio and Danielle Reyna, who are both former national team players, brought up the violent act after their son saw limited playing time in the 2022 World Cup and Berhalter said that a player was almost kicked off the team. Gio admitted on social media that the comments were about him.
In the World Cup, the USMNT advanced out of the group stage after missing out on the 2014 tournament. They were knocked out of the Round of 16 by the Netherlands.
The report said the mother told then-US Soccer Sporting Director Earnie Stewart about the kicking incident because she “was emotional and angry” that her son was publicly humiliated. The two had a call with Stewart further informing him of the incident the same month Berhalter’s The report continued by saying that there is sufficient reason to believe that the Reynas had intentions of undermining Berhalter’s chances of renewing his contract with the USMNT.
“Facts gathered from the Investigation witnesses further inform that, when the Reynas spoke to Mr. Stewart… (1) they disclosed information about Mr. Berhalter to US Soccer that Mrs. Reyna had known for decades; and (2) the information was disclosed at a time when it would be expected to discourage or otherwise influence the organization from offering a contract extension to Mr. Berhalter,” the report said. “Mr. Stewart explained during the Investigation that he believed the Reynas made this disclosure to him so that US Soccer would not hire Mr. Berhalter for another term.”
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The report concluded that the Reynas cannot be legally held responsible for their actions as they did not break a criminal law, nor did they violate any US Soccer policies. However, their conduct could be found in violation of FIFA rules and regulations, including operating in conflict of interest and not acting to “protect, respect and safeguard the integrity and personal dignity of others.”
“Mr. Reyna may have used his status as arguably one of the best soccer players in the
United States, while also serving in a position that constitutes an ‘official,'” the report said, “as that term is defined under the FIFA Code of Ethics, to attempt to influence decisions by US Soccer officials and staff concerning his children.”
Stewart stepped down from his position last month. US Soccer is currently looking for his replacement, who will then hire the next head coach.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Soccer acquits Gregg Berhalter; who remains a coaching candidate