Peter Nowak Hazed, Mistreated Players During Tenure With Union - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Peter Nowak Hazed, Mistreated Players During Tenure With Union

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    Peter Nowak Hazed, Mistreated Players During Tenure With Union
    Dave Zeitlin
    Peter Nowak hazed, mistreated players during tenure with Union

    The Union are trying to create a better future under the leadership of first-year sporting director Earnie Stewart and a pair of passionate Philly natives in head coach Jim Curtin and technical director Chris Albright.

    They cannot distance themselves from the franchise's murky past far enough.

    In a bombshell report laid out in a series of tweets by Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald on Tuesday night, it was revealed that former Union manager Peter Nowak participated in ugly forms of hazing, chastised players with concussions, clashed with the team's head trainer over player safety, and violated terms of his contract and the MLS collective bargaining agreement before being fired in June 2012.

    These revelations, some of which have long been rumored, came to light because Nowak sued the Union for wrongful termination, which was sent to arbitration. Nowak lost the case earlier this year and Tannenwald, who's been closely monitoring the saga from the beginning, obtained 200 pages of documents from the lawsuit Tuesday.

    In those documents, the Union asserted that Nowak was fired in part because of an investigation by Major League Soccer into his mistreatment of players. MLS advised Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz to terminate Nowak's contract more than three years before it would have expired.

    Sakiewicz, who himself was fired near the end of the 2015 season, said in testimony that the "health and welfare of players" was his primary reason for Nowak's dismissal. At the time of the firing, Sakiewicz was more vague about his reasoning, pointing to "philosophical differences" between the Union ownership and Nowak.

    Just seven months before the 2012 coaching change, Nowak - the club's first-ever manager - had guided the Union to their only playoff berth. But the volatile Polish coach quickly and controversially dismantled the core of the team and the Union struggled mightily on the field in the first few months of the 2012 campaign.

    Off the field, it looks like things were even worse.

    In perhaps the most damaging piece of evidence against him, Nowak admitted to dipping his hands in ice water and paddling players - although he claimed Sakiewicz was aware of the ritual and did nothing to stop it.

    Nowak also forced players, even injured ones, to go on a 10- to 12-mile run on a hot day without water over the objections of head trainer Paul Rushing. Nowak's attorneys, though, insisted that players had access to water after the run and no one suffered from dehydration or any other related sickness.

    Further, MLS players' union head Bob Foose testified that Union players complained Nowak thought concussions were "not real," leading to "denigration of players" who said they felt any concussion symptoms. Nowak's side asserted he never played any player with a concussion.

    The arbiter wasn't convinced by Nowak's defense - the former coach not only lost the arbitration but was also ordered to pay nearly half a million dollars for the team's legal fees.

    According to Tannenwald, Nowak has since filed for the arbiter's ruling to be vacated, so the case is not yet closed.

    "With respect to the legal process, as the case is still ongoing, there's only so much that can be said," Union spokesman Chris Winkler told CSNPhilly.com in a statement. "However, it is important to note these reports are from the past and that the organization made the necessary actions to correct any issues. Behind having the right people in place, we're concentrating on having a successful 2016 season."

    On top of his mistreatment of players - and trying to out those who took their grievances to the players' union - Nowak also violated the league's collective players agreement by playing unsigned players in ticketed friendlies.

    Nowak also sought other employment opportunities while with the Union, including the U.S. national team head coaching job as well as positions in Europe. Longtime player and current broadcaster Shep Messing testified that Nowak asked him for help in this regard, saying that Nowak told him, "I have to get the hell out of Philadelphia. These guys are stupid."

    In the end, Nowak did get out of Philadelphia - although many Union fans are undoubtedly wishing he never came here to begin with.