UPDATED: FC Kansas City owners answer accusation of sending sexually demeaning emails

Emails sent by three of FC Kansas City’s owners, Chris Likens and his sons, Brad and Greg Likens, included sexually suggestive pictures of female soccer players and refer to “riding” them like horses, according to a former employee at Nations Holdings, another company owned by the Likens, told Excelle Sports.

FC Kansas City responded forcefully to the accusation early Friday evening, saying in a statement attributable to ownership: “These e-mails were fabricated by Brian Budzinski, a disgruntled former employee of the Missouri Comets.  He sent these emails out four months ago under a fake e-mail account under the pseudonym of another former employee, but they/it was proven to be a ruse.  This is one of several different tactics Brian is using in trying to negotiate the purchase of the Missouri Comets.

“We are going to reach out to Excelle regarding slander, as they obviously haven’t confirmed their sources.  Brian has sent this article to other media sources who have refused to publish anything due to no corroboration.”

A message left for Budzinski at the Kansas City Soccer Dome, where he was expected to check in on Friday night, was not immediately returned.

The Likens are part of an ownership group for FCKC including themselves and Budzinski. They also own the Missouri Comets, who play in the Major Arena Soccer League and, until recently, were also coached by FCKC’s Vlatko Andonovski. Andonovski stepped down as the Comets’ coach in order to focus on coaching FCKC.

The anonymous source provided three emails sent in 2013 by all three Likens dated January 4, March 26 and October 21. You can read them below.

In the March 26, 2013 email sent by Chris Likens, he includes photos of several international players from more suggestive photoshoots, then says “I am coaching myself” in reference to these players. He rates these women by “hotness” and says they all want to “play on Chris’s new team.” None of these players were ever signed by FCKC.

In the January 4 email, Chris Likens implies that he has soccer players living in his barn and writes “I ride everything every chance I get.”

The October 21 email sent by Brad Likens includes a personal photo of current Houston Dash player Kealia Ohai in a bathing suit. The photo serves no identifying purpose, and in fact could not even be used to readily identify Ohai as it is small and her face is turned away from the camera and obscured by sunglasses.

Currently, the Likens are embroiled in a lawsuit with Budzinski. As detailed by the KC Business Journal, part of Budzinski’s complaint against his partners is that he wants to know “whether Brad and Greg Likens used the Comets’ computers and servers to transmit scantily attired and suggestively posed pictures of FC Kansas City’s female players in a way that created a hostile and discriminatory work environment.”

While these emails date back to 2013, another anonymous source close to the team describes interactions with the Likens as “creepy” as late as the end of the 2015 season. 

The source who provided these emails told Excelle Sports: “The workplace at FC Kansas City and Nations Holdings is often blatantly demeaning to women, including high-level employees engaged in alleged sexual harassment of female employees and other misconduct. The players of FC Kansas City and the USWNT have a right to know who they are playing for. The other team owners have a right to know who is in the board room with them.”

This isn’t the first time Chris Likens has been involved in a lawsuit, having previously settled with the Federal Trade Commission over “deceptive claims about their privacy and security policies.”

It’s been a mixed bag of a season so far for NWSL, with attendance up 17 percent, but the public embarrassment over the field conditions for a match in Western New York last month serving as the biggest single national story about the league. However, the Likens emails might leave the NWSL yearning for those days in the period ahead.

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