Some troubling allegations about former Philadelphia Union head coach Peter Nowak have surfaced after documents pertaining to his lawsuit against the team and Major League Soccer were made public.
Nowak, currently an advisor to the president of the Caribbean Football Union and the manager of Antigua and Barbuda, is a former Polish international who spent most of his playing career in Poland and Germany before finishing his time on the pitch with the Chicago Fire. A couple years after his retirement he took over as manager at DC United before moving to US Soccer, spending two years as U-23 head coach and as an assistant to Bob Bradley. He was named as the Union’s first head coach in 2009 but, despite leading the team to their first playoff appearance in their second season, his tenure as manager (and later as an executive vice president) was cut short after two and a half seasons. Nowak responded by filing a wrongful termination suit against the team and the league.
Yesterday, Philly.com soccer reporter Jonathan Tannenwald got a hold of newly released documents from the lawsuit. The documents help fill in the blanks on the Union’s side of the story, and the picture they paint of Nowak and his time as Philly manager is not at all flattering.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Nowak regularly had his squad run upwards of 12 miles in hot weather with no water breaks. He also apparently did not believe concussions were real and pressured players to ignore head injuries, even while visibly concussed.
- He conducted hazing rituals and physically abused his players. On at least one occasion he struck a player so hard he needed to dip his hand in a bucket of ice.
- One unnamed player complained to the MLS Player’s Union about Nowak’s abusive behavior and was traded to another team shortly thereafter.
- Nowak violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the MLSPU by fielding trialists and academy players for friendlies.
- While under contract he actively applied for other coaching positions in Scotland and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the Polish National Team.
- He had an ongoing relationship with New York Cosmos legend and current color commentator Shep Messing. In 2010, following the USA’s elimination from the World Cup, Nowak asked Messing to approach Sunil Gulati and lobby for the USMNT manager position on his behalf. He also regularly vented about his job in Philadelphia, saying, “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.” Much of their correspondence was conducted through Nowak’s private email account, as he was worried that the Union would seize his computer and his club email account.
- Philadelphia players were so concerned about possible retaliation that the MLSPU had to institute a Confidentiality Agreement for only the second time in its history. The only other instance was during a prior investigation at DC United… also involving Peter Nowak.
- The MLSPU was prepared to call for a strike action if Philadelphia did not fire Nowak.
Tannenwald reported on the documents through his Twitter account. His Tweets from yesterday have been collected in a Storify timeline, which you can view here.
The lawsuit was all but settled in April when an arbitrator ruled in favor of the Union. Nowak’s claims were rejected and he was ordered to pay nearly half a million dollars in legal fees.