Jill Ellis at a San Diego Wave match on June 7, 2024. Jill Ellis at a San Diego Wave match on June 7, 2024. (Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports.)

There’s a lot of discussion out there around the NWSL’s San Diego Wave after team president Jill Ellis fired head coach Casey Stoney earlier this week. That move came just months after Stoney had signed a new contract through 2027 earlier this year. And the discussion took a twist Wednesday when ex-Wave employees started speaking out on the team in strong terms, and when the team pushed back with accusations of a “fabricated email” and “defamatory statements.”

This started with a Twitter/X post from videographer/photographer Brittany Alvarado in the wake of Stoney’s controversial firing. Alvarado moved to San Diego to work as the team’s video and creative manager last year, but resigned last month after she felt “trapped in an environment where my mental health was relentlessly compromised.” She said the organization “often perpetuated discrimination against women and demonstrated a complete disregard for their long-term mental health,” and cited that more than 75 percent of the 30 employees who have been fired or quit since the team’s 2021 founding have been women.

Alvarado also accused the club of “abusive leadership.”  She particularly went after Ellis on that front, saying “On behalf of myself and my former colleagues, the treatment we endured under club president Jill Ellis has been nothing short of life-altering and devastating to our mental health.” Here’s her full post (also viewable on Twitter/X here):

Alvarado then included a follow-up post with an email she says she received from a Wave “senior leadership member” 10 days after her resignation:

The team responded with a statement calling Alvarado’s comments “false and defamatory” and claiming the email was “fabricated”:

But others have chimed in to add to Alvarado’s remarks, including photographer Jenny Chuang:

Chuang did note that the people “who made me suffer” don’t work there any longer, though, so her complaints aren’t specifically about Ellis:

Update: Angel City FC’s Sydney Leroux, who played for the USWNT under Ellis, also chimed in on this in support of Alvarado:

Meanwhile, the NWSL weighed in with a statement asking for reports to their safety officer:

And others questioned the Wave’s response:

Others still brought up Carli Lloyd’s recent comments on Fox’s Copa America coverage about USWNT coaches the players “hated,” which many presumed to include Ellis:

It should be noted that there have been several high-profile NWSL investigations over the years. In particular, a 2021 report from Meg Linehan and Katie Strang of The Athletic on sexual coercion from former coach Paul Riley and the muted league response to those accusations sparked a player revolt and even postponed matches. But 2021 also saw an investigation into harassment, verbal abuse, and a toxic work culture at the Washington Spirit, spurred by Washington Post reporting, and that investigation led to the firing of head coach Richie Burke and the eventual forced sale of the team. There were also further accusations and investigations across the league, and that saw commissioner Lisa Baird eventually resign, with five head coaches and several other executives also losing their jobs.

Alvarado notes in her first post here that those past investigations led to calls for change. In particular, 2022 saw a report from former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and a joint investigation from the NWSLPA provide many recommendations on how to avoid these situations in the future. But the claims from Alvarado and Chuang certainly make it sound like there are still major problems with the Wave. And the team’s strong “defamatory” dispute and accusations Alvarado “fabricated” the email is also interesting. It seems likely there’s a lot more to come from this in the weeks ahead.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.