‘We believe our athletes’: Brandon University apologizes after investigation found soccer coach sexually harassed players

Brandon University has apologized after an external investigation detailed incidents of harassment and sexual violence within its women’s soccer program, pledging a full review of its athletics department.

The investigation and apology come following a Winnipeg Free Press report that Bobcats women’s soccer head coach Jesse Roziere remained on the job for months despite a school investigation that found he acted inappropriately with student athletes.

CTV News Winnipeg obtained a copy of a December 2021 report by human rights lawyer Pamela Clarke, who was retained by BU’s acting human resources officer to externally investigate the allegations.

The report alleges a pattern of sexual and personal harassment from the head coach. The alleged incidents include asking a player out on a date, sending Snapchat photos of himself and a female shirtless in bed to two players, and making sexual advances to players including kissing one at a bar in summer of 2019 when she was intoxicated.

The report said he also allegedly sent a sexually suggestive video to players of himself with a banana.

In the report’s findings, Clarke noted she did not have any reason to doubt the credibility of the players who filed the complaints.

She also noted the coach’s allegations that the players lined up their stories were ‘preposterous,’ adding the coach suffered from a credibility deficit, causing him to deny, downplay and attempt to re-characterize almost every alleged incident.

“This investigation was not about the number of parties he attended, how many drinks he had and what time he left. However, his attempts to assert that he only attended two player parties a year and that he left early certainly shed light on his credibility,” the report said.

Adam Pollock, a lawyer representing Roziere said his client maintains he has not committed any wrongdoing.

“He expects that this position will be supported at the conclusion of this matter,” Pollock said in a statement to CTV News. “Mr. Roziere is cooperating with the process as required. Part of the process is maintaining strict confidentiality. Therefore, he is unable to discuss the allegations at this time. If others have chosen to do so, they are in breach of the process.”

COACH STAYED ON THE JOB AFTER 2020 COMPLAINT, PLAYER SAY

Three players who spoke anonymously to CTV News Winnipeg say a complaint letter was first submitted to the university’s athletic director in the fall of 2020 by one of the players, outlining concerns with the coach’s conduct and treatment of herself and other players.

She then resubmitted her complaint in January of 2021 under the university’s discrimination and harassment prevention policy, at which time three other players supported her claims.

She said she wasn’t happy with the results of the investigation, which came in March. She alleged the university found Roziere violated its policy, but his actions weren’t serious enough to remove him as coach.

“Personally, that was probably the lowest point of my life because I thought I’d experienced so much that nobody else ever deserves to go through,” she said.

The players said they requested a new investigation with an independent party to look at the claims, but the university denied their request. They then decided to speak to the media.

Clarke’s report notes in September of 2021, the university sought further investigation from her when a reporter contacted BU for comment and shared details of the allegations.

At this point, the report notes the coach was removed from his role pending the outcome of the new investigation.

The university told CTV News that Roziere is not currently performing any work for the institution and is not being paid.

APOLOGY TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: PLAYERS

In the course of the investigations, the players said they left the team.

“I couldn’t deal with the mental anguish that he had put on me in the years of knowing him. It just got to a point where I was at a really, really low spot,” one player said.

On Wednesday, Brandon University offered a public apology to its student athletes, noting it accepts the external investigation’s findings.

“We are sorry, unreservedly, for what you endured while participating in our athletics program and since. We are sorry that harm was caused to you. We are also sorry for any of our public statements that have in any way called your integrity into question. To that end, we say unequivocally that we believe our athletes and we will aim to do better,” the apology reads.

BU also said it plans to ‘robustly address these issues’ and will do a thorough review of its athletics program.

CTV News reached out to BU for further information, but was referred to the university’s public apology.

One player believes the only reason an apology was given was because they shared their stories with reporters.

“It just seems like they don’t actually care at all,” she said, adding she wants the independent investigation report to be made public.

Lauren Craig, a former Bobcats player who left the team due to Roziere’s behaviour, said there is nothing the university can do or say that will make her forgive.

“Soccer was the one thing that I absolutely love in life, fully. Even on my worst days, I could still play soccer, and they took that from me,” she said.

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