Thanks to the work of Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald, soccer twitter was treated to a flood of information regarding the Philadelphia Union and former head coach Peter Nowak. It started with the following tweet
Just got hold of over 200 pages of new documents in Peter Nowak's lawsuit against the Philadelphia Union. This will be fun.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) January 6, 2016
And by the time it was all finished, we learned that the Philadelphia Union - at least until Nowak was fired - was a hellish nightmare for the players run by a dictator who ruled through fear and abuse. Among the thing that were alleged in sworn testimony:
- Union players were forced to run 10-12 miles in 80° F weather with no water
- Nowak didn't believe in concussions and would call players "pussies" if they didn't play with one
- An unnamed player (believed to be Danny Califf) was traded shortly after going to the MLS Player's Union to complain about abuses
- Nowak violated MLS CBA rules by playing trialists and Academy players in friendlies
- The Union paid US Soccer $75,000 to buy out Nowak's contract
- The Union then signed him to a five year contract
- And then in 2011 increased his salary, agreeing to pay him $1.5 million through the end of his contract
- While still employed with the Union, Nowak applied for other club coaching positions in Europe - specifically Scotland - and the United Arab Emirates
- He also applied to manage the Polish National Team
- In one bizarre twist, Nowak got Shep Messing to contact Sunil Gulati after the United States was eliminated from the 2010 World Cup and tell Gulati to hire Nowak for the USMNT manager position
- Nowak tried to convince Veljko Paunovic - now head coach of the Chicago Fire - to come with him to manage abroad
- Nowak told Paunovic to email him at his personal email address so that in the event the Union seized his computer, he'd have all of the information
- When testifying, Shep Messing had the following quote from Nowak "I have to get the hell out of Philadelphia. These guys are stupid. They don't know what they're doing and they're broke. They have no money."
- Messing also quoted Nowak as saying "Nick Sakiewicz doesn't have a fucking clue" and that "They don't know what they're doing. They have no money."
- Nowak conducted hazing of players, including spanking players to the point where Nowak needed a bucket of ice to dip his hand in
- If the Union had not fired Nowak, the MLS Players Union (MLSPU) was prepared to strike
- Nowak owes over $100k to the Union for loans and advances
- Since the Union players were so afraid of retaliation for cooperating with the MLSPU, the league put in a Confidentiality Agreement for only the second time in MLS history. The only other time? When they were investigating D.C. United - who was managed at the time by Peter Nowak
- While with D.C., Nowak gave Shep Messing an MLS Championship ring for being "an advisor"
- Nowak claims the Union "had not - and could not - pay its required franchise fee"
- Nowak also claims to have "received a text message from Mr. Sakiewicz, after one of the games, that he (a player whose name was redacted) cost us the the game and we have to do something about it."
- Nowak claims that (former Union President) Tom Veit and Nick Sakiewicz approved of the hazing, and that (ex-Union coach) Rob Vartughian and John Hackworth - now the US U17 coach - videotaped the hazing incidents
Some things to remember about these bullet points - these are excerpts from sworn testimony in an arbitration case. That said, there is a large "he said, he said" element to all of these allegations and that it's very possible that someone misrepresented the facts in this case. Also, as Tannenwald pointed out:
Peter Nowak and Nick Sakiewicz are both gone from the Union now. The organization has moved on, and rightly so.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) January 6, 2016
The Union know there will still be some questions that they need to answer publicly, but for the most part, this stuff in the past.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) January 6, 2016
The arbitrator in this case ruled in favor of the Philadelphia Union on April 21, 2015 and required Nowak to pay over $454,000 in legal fees and denied his claim for restitution from the Union.
Here are all of Tannenwald's tweets in one Storify: