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Craig Harrington - Utah Royals FC
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Utah Royals FC Head Coach Craig Harrington, Assistant Coach Placed On Leave By Club

Craig Harrington head coach of Utah Royals FC looks on against Houston Dash during the second half in the quarterfinal match of the NWSL Challenge Cup at Zions Bank Stadium on July 17, 2020 in Herriman, Utah. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Royals FC placed head coach Craig Harrington and assistant coach Louis Lancaster on leave from team activities, according to a representative of the club.

Harrington and Lancaster’s leave of absence comes amid an investigation into the leadership of Utah Soccer, the organization that owns the NWSL franchise, along with MLS club Real Salt Lake and USL Championship club Real Monarchs.

Shortly after the investigation commenced, Harrington expressed support of the Utah Royals players regarding racial and gender equality.

“It has been an honor to watch the Utah Royals players raising their voices for racial and gender equality,” Harrington posted on Twitter. “I commend their bravery in moving our society to become more just and equitable. There is no place for racism or sexism in sports or in society. Whether on the field or off, as their coach and ally, I am proud to support them in this fight.”

The club announced Amy LePeilbet will serve as interim head coach.

LePeilbet’s first match as the Royals’ interim head coach was in a 3-0 loss to Portland Thorns FC on Sunday, September 20.

Prior to the match, Utah’s players released a statement.

“We’ve had enough. Enough of racist systems excluding black and brown people. Enough of sexist stereotypes infiltrating conversations about our talents and achievements as athletes. Enough of a work environment that is not open and inclusive for all,” the players wrote. “We acknowledge the past wrongdoings of this organization and choose to move forward in a new direction. It’s important for us to not sweep these things under the rug, but to bring them to light, in order to hold ourselves and the people around us to a much higher standard.”

“As a team, we’re setting the standard with a new beginning. One that is open, welcoming, community driven, and elite. One that continues the work of iconic trailblazers like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to demand equality and respect for all,” the Royals players continued. “We expect everyone associated with us to join in upholding these standards. Anything less will impede our progress as a club, as players, and as people. We refuse to settle.”

After the team’s loss in Portland and flight back to Salt Lake City, Royals midfielder Verónica Boquete posted on social media that she was “proud of the team for showing up especially in this challenging time.”

Utah’s next match is at home against the OL Reign on Saturday, September 26 at 1:30 p.m. (MDT).