Manitoba

Brandon University apologizes after report finds soccer coach sexually harassed players

Brandon University is apologizing to students who experienced harassment and sexual violence while taking part in its women’s soccer program, and says it plans to conduct a full review of its sports programs. 

Apology not good enough, says 1 of the players who helped bring allegations to light

Brandon University officials are apologizing to students involved in its soccer program after an independent investigator found a coach repeatedly abused his position of power over young female athletes. (CBC)

Brandon University is apologizing to students who experienced abuse and sexual harassment while taking part in its women's soccer program, and says it plans to conduct a full review of its sports programs. 

The apology comes after the Winnipeg Free Press reported earlier this week that an external investigation found soccer coach Jesse Roziere repeatedly abused his position of power over young female athletes, and demonstrated a pattern of sexually harassing behaviour. 

A copy of the report obtained by CBC News says the players first brought concerns forward to the university's athletic director about how Roziere was treating them in the fall of 2020. 

However, university officials decided not to remove him as coach. After pushing to have their concerns addressed for months, the players eventually went to the media, after which the university retained lawyer Pamela Clarke to conduct an investigation into the allegations. 

The report says the players experienced a pattern of sexual and personal harassment from Roziere, including receiving a sexually suggestive video from him, feeling pressured to Snapchat with him or else be retaliated against, getting unsolicited messages from him when he was intoxicated, and being berated by him in front of their teammates. 

One player says Roziere asked her out on a date while he was on the women's team coaching staff, and later kissed her against her will while they were at the same bar. 

The player who raised the complaints said they all ended up quitting the team because the treatment became intolerable, and that the entire experience has been incredibly damaging. 

The report says Roziere denied the allegations, and accused the players of co-ordinating their stories to make themselves look credible and try to get rid of him. 

However, in her report, Clarke said she found the players' accounts were credible, and Roziere's theory that they had rehearsed their evidence was "preposterous." 

The report confirmed allegations raised by players, says a statement from the university. 

"To our student athletes: We are sorry, unreservedly, for what you endured while participating in our athletics program and since. We are sorry that harm was caused to you," the statement says. 

"We are also sorry for any of our public statements that have in any way called your integrity into question. To that end, we say unequivocally that we believe our athletes and we will aim to do better."

'Ruined the game'

One of the players who raised concerns about Roziere said she was disappointed with the apology. In an interview with CBC News, she said she and the other players received the report in February, and wanted a public apology then — and for the report to be made public. 

The apology that was issued Wednesday was too generic, and didn't address the details of what took place, she said. 

"They don't care about us. They only care about their image. They're only trying to protect themselves," she said. 

"They're the ones that neglected us and didn't listen and weren't there for us."

CBC News isn't naming the player because she is still a student and is concerned about retaliation for coming forward. 

It's just really frustrating that one person can take something so important to you away, from being so manipulative and disgusting.- BU soccer player

The player said soccer was her entire life since she was young, and she's played for numerous teams competitively. But after this experience, she doesn't want to play anymore. 

"Playing on all these very competitive teams, I have had hard coaches, strict coaches. But never have I ever experienced this," she said. 

"And it has literally ruined the game for me. So it's just really frustrating that one person can take something so important to you away, from being so manipulative and disgusting."

The university says it plans to undertake an external review of its entire athletics program that will be conducted by those with experience in university athletics programs, student support, and sexual violence to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

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