Another player has come forward to allege that Richie Burke verbally abused him when he played for Burke, this time as a member of his D.C. United U-23 PDL squad in 2015. This player requested to remain anonymous, but Black & Red United can confirm he was with the DCU U-23s at the same time as Burke.
The player, who spent roughly three months under Burke, said Burke would have belligerent, violent outbursts during training. Though Burke was never physically violent, as far as the player witnessed, he was insulting and aggressive. The player said that if he wasn’t being aggressive enough for Burke’s standards, then Burke would tell him to “man up” and “stop being a pussy.” The insults didn’t stop there; Burke also called the player “pathetic,” “a joke,” “moron,” and “a disgrace.”
The player confirmed that Burke regularly and casually used homophobic language, specifically the f-word. “He used the word f***ot multiple times,” the player said, elaborating that it was used both as an insult against players and in jokes Burke would make. NWSL did not respond to a request for comment about league policies regarding discriminatory behavior by staff as of the writing of this article. D.C. United responded to a request for comment about their policies regarding discriminatory behavior with the following statement:
D.C. United is disappointed to hear of the allegations concerning Richie Burke, a former Academy coach. Mr. Burke worked in a temporary status during the summers of 2015 and 2016 but was never an employee of D.C. United and has no current affiliation with D.C. United. Moreover, during his time with D.C. United, the club never received any allegations of inappropriate conduct by Mr. Burke. D.C. United is committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for its employees and players. These policies are clearly laid out in both the D.C. United Employee Handbook and the D.C. United Academy Handbook and will continue to be enforced in accordance with D.C. United’s values.
The player said he never talked about the verbal abuse with other players or reported it to the club. He said some of the players had the attitude that “He treats me okay, so I don’t really care” and some thought this was simply part of being an older player; others didn’t want to stand out by speaking up.
The player told B&RU that Burke would be complimentary with the players he liked, or the ones who were performing well, but would “snap” and “go on these tirades” with anyone who made a mistake. Players Burke didn’t like included those he didn’t recruit or bring to the club.
“If you were someone he didn’t bring in, right off the bat he was insulting. He would insult the college you went to, the coach you had,” said the player. “If you were in his spotlight, he would not give up on [abusing] you until you either quit – you would either leave the team or you would just sit the bench and disappear off his radar.”
“He would stay on people until either they broke or he got rid of them, basically,” the player said.
The player described how Burke’s behavior and mismanagement destroyed his confidence and made him lose the desire to play, afraid that any mistake would bring on another round of verbal abuse. “I didn’t want to be there anymore,” said the player. “I wanted to just walk off the field…I didn’t want the ball. Any time the ball was starting to come towards me I was like oh god, I don’t want this. I don’t want to deal with this anymore.”
The player also alleged that Burke’s assistant coach at the time, Tom Torres, witnessed Burke’s verbal abuse but said nothing. Torres is currently an analyst and technical development coach for the Washington Spirit. The Spirit did not respond to a request for comment from Torres as of the writing of this article.
The player said he felt compelled to come forward after seeing that a youth player at FC Virginia had also accused Burke of verbal abuse and using homophobic language. Burke allegedly also called the FCV youth player insulting names like “moron,” used the F-word in front of him and his teammates, and made him not want to play soccer anymore.
“The issues were how above and beyond he would go to make you feel as small and as bad as possible. He would do that on a continuous basis if you were messing up,” said the player. “I know for a fact that what he does is extremely effective to hurt your self-image, to the way you think about the sport, to the way that you think about yourself.”