FC Kansas City co-owners in court dispute

The Equalizer Staff August 12, 2016 18

FC Kansas City’s ownership group appears to have splintered and co-owner Brian Budzinski has filed a lwasuit against his partners, brothers Brad and Greg Likens.

According to a report by James Dornbrook in Kansas City Business Journal, Budzinski is seeking a total of $3.75 million in damages from the Likens brothers. The suit states that that the brothers have frozen Budzinski out on decisions regarding the club. The examples cited are in regards to the Missouri Comets, a men’s indoor team owned by the same group that plays in the Major Arena Soccer League. FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski doubled as Comets coach until stepping down from the latter position recently.

A less detailed but potentially more troubling element of the case suggests the Likens brothers may have used company servers to send inappropriate emails and pictures.  From Dornbrook’s article:

Budzinski also said he wanted to investigate whether Brad and Greg Likens used the Comets’ computers and servers to transmit scantily attired and suggestively posed pictures of FC Kansas City’s female players in a way that created a hostile and discriminatory work environment.

Excelle Sports obtained emailed sent between the Likens brothers and their father Chris. The emails show Budzinski was copied but do not include replies from him. Brad Likens released a statement late Friday that read: “These e-mails were fabricated by Brian Budzinski, a disgruntled former employee of the Missouri Comets. He sent these emails out four months ago under a fake e-mail account under the pseudonym of another former employee, but they/it was proven to be a ruse. This is one of several different tactics Brian is using in trying to negotiate the purchase of the Missouri Comets.

“We are going to reach out to Excelle regarding slander, as they obviously haven’t confirmed their sources. Brian has sent this article to other media sources who have refused to publish anything due to no corroboration.”

NWSL released this statement regarding the email allegations: “The alleged conduct is counter to the very core principles that we expect of our league and teams. We are currently gathering information and will not comment further until the matter has been thoroughly assessed.”

Through his attorney’s office, Budzinski issued a no comment on all matters pertaining to the suit including a question about whether he was still in a position of authority with the clubs.

  • Ugh. What a day. First I read the sexist article about Kacie McDonnell moving on to another job, but the article only focused on how men would be affected by the change. Either no longer getting to drool over a pretty female, or no longer being the attention of her “jersey chasing.”

    Then, it was sitting at the bar watching the game and overhearing the table of guys behind me talk about why the USWNT players don’t deserve equal pay. Then they added delightful tidbits about the team like, “if the players took off their shirts every time they scored a goal they’d earn more in endorsements.” Then they moved onto more such insightful commentary about female athletes in other sports, like why girls can’t play football and other Sepp Blatter-esque opinions on what they should wear while competing.

    Then after the loss I hear this FCKC story and read the inappropriate emails sent by Likens in the midst of putting together the team in 2013. It’s really disheartening, to say the least. Feels like a never-ending uphill battle to earn respect from men in any capacity. From a female perspective, one would think that elite athletes, at the very least, would have an easier time earning respect from men who like sports, but apparently that isn’t the case.

    • mockmook

      “Feels like a never-ending uphill battle to earn respect from men in any capacity.”

      Sounds like you are doing some stereotyping yourself.

      • Lorehead

        Stop being a jackass. You perfectly well know—and if you didn’t, she just gave several examples from her own personal experience—that what she said is true of a lot of men and that she did not mean each and every man. If your definition of “stereotyping” includes noticing when women get the short end of the stick, then that kind of what you call “stereotyping” is the right thing to do, and I don’t care whether a given thing meets your definition of that word or not.

        • Steglitz49

          Dropping your kit for the cameras for money is about as stereotyping as you can get.

          Soccer is about scoring goals.

        • mockmook

          You’re a moron.

          “From a female perspective, one would think that elite athletes, at the very least, would have an easier time earning respect from men who like sports, but apparently that isn’t the case.”

          She was stereotyping.

          All this stupid grievance mongering is just dividing us.

          • Lorehead

            Who cares if that meets your definition of “stereotyping” or not? You’re making a bad-faith excuse to avoid solving a real problem.

          • Men like sports. [stereotype]
            Men respect athletes for their athletic achievements. [assumption]
            Elite athletes earn admiration in direct proportion to their achievements. [assumption]
            Men don’t like women’s sports as much as men’s sports. [stereotype]
            Female athletes have a better chance at earning respect and admiration from male viewers when they are very good at their sport. [assumption]

            Yes, my assumption that elite female athletes (Williams’ sisters, Alex Morgan) would earn more respect from male viewers is based on the stereotype that many men don’t respect female athletes very much to begin with, but they do place high value on athletic achievement.

            And on that day, hearing them snidely discuss the “blondes vs brunettes” women’s tackle football game as being a complete joke was not a surprise to me. It did make me roll my eyes and tick me off because many of my friends play in that game and I know how talented some of the players are. It’s not a game played to titillate frat boys, for example. But hearing them say that members of the USWNT should take their tops off because that’s the only way they would get endorsements simply infuriated me.

            It was a gross generalization, but not a completely inaccurate stereotype in my opinion.

          • KT5000

            It’s a generalization, but a true one. Being a generalization, it doesn’t apply to each and every individual man, so anyone trying to pick apart the CENTRAL POINT of your post by whining about your generalization is engaging in bullshit.

            If people don’t see how women in sports is a whole uphill “ball of wax”, eff ’em.

      • TsovLoj

        I think you gotta be in serious denial as a man if you don’t think our demographic has a sexism problem.

      • I knew I would get called out for this generalization, but I won’t apologize for it. Obviously, the men on this forum care about WoSo a great deal and sexist comments are kept to a minimum.

        Since I spend so much time talking WoSo with men who actually care about the game and take a vested interest in the players beyond their appearance and….um, bedability… I sometimes forget that a large percentage of male sports fans, or perhaps even the majority of men have mostly negative things to say about female athletes.

        I’d hate to think that I’m spoiled by spending time on this site and that I’m actually deluding myself that men’s attitudes toward women are becoming less sexist. Then instances like the above happen, where you overhear men, in the company of other men, talking about women. More often than not it’s not in a way we would want to be discussed.

        So, don’t get too mad at the stereotype, get mad at men who reinforce that stereotype and help to change it. Trust me, I reached my boiling point listening to their conversation and thought to share MY opinions with them after the game, but they left before I could do so. And frankly, after the events of that day, I was just done with it all.

    • USMNTfan4life

      The equal pay argument is valid when it is used with revenue. If the men generate more revenue than the women over a longer time period, they should get more. That is how the free market /economics works.

      If the women generated more $$ for their recent WWC win, over the short-term, they generate more revenue over last year and the Olympic year. During non 1st-team tournaments, they probably don’t generate that much revenue.

      Besides, the men are paid like day-laborers. Show up, and get paid. The women are salaried US Soccer employees, whose salaries for their NWSL teams are paid by US soccer. So, their pay structure is different than the men. The men don’t do “Victory” or “Thank You Fans” tours, because once men’s tournaments end, they return to the clubs that own their contracts, and consider them valuable investments.

      The USWNT are not obligated to return to their club teams, because their contracts are owned by US soccer, and so can use them to generate revenue for US soccer. So, the men and women do not do the same amount of “work,” per se.

    • Steglitz49

      Blatter might be forgiven for not predicting that WoSo players would drop their kit for the cameras for personal financial gain as often as they do.

      Else your comments are well taken.

    • guest

      I just googled Kacie McDonnell and she looks like a total bimbo to me, an air-headed social climber. How do you expect a woman like her to get any respect?

      Women get about as much respect as they deserve. Look at Mother Theresa–a well respected woman in her field. Then look at Allie Krieger. Why did she abandon her teammates and her professional calling to attend a frivolous social event?

      I watched the Colombia match in a rough blue collar bar in Texas where I think the most common word spoken began with “f” and most of the TV’s were tuned to Nascar when I walked in, but by the time I left, most of the TV’s were tuned to the match, so there’s hope yet. The problem with the early US exit is that the wider viewing public likes winners, and now they’re going to lose interest in soccer.

      • I’m not going to comment on the question about respect, but I agree with your third paragraph in that this early exit hurts the USWNT because it limits their exposure to more casual sports fans.

        I watched the last match in a sports bar over lunch. When I arrived a couple of TVs were on the game. I asked them to turn on the volume to the game when it started and they did and quickly turned the rest of the TVs to the game as well. At first it was just my table and a table from FCKC there to watch the game. Shortly as people started arriving for lunch – mostly groups of men from nearby businesses – they noticed the game on TV when they walked in and were excited to watch it and people got into the match. It was obvious none of them came there to watch the game like I did, but were happy to watch it since it was on. We need better TV contracts for soccer and for women’s sports in general. If given adequate opportunity, people will tune in.

  • TsovLoj

    KC is not the team I would have expected this Judge Judy crap and giggity giggity emails out of. They’d always looked like a pretty professional operation.

    You know, if the ownership is melting down, maybe Sporting could make an offer. That might be a silver lining here.

    • My2cents

      Would this be a situation to invoke the leagues right to revoke their operating license agreement, encouraging them to sell their rights to the team. The league certainly doesn’t need this kind of cloud hanging over them. Who knows how long it will drag out. Maybe in this case MLS Sporting KC would be more receptive to gaining control of the team. While FCKC has done very well at putting a competitive team on the field on the soccer end of things, they don’t seem to be carrying that out over to the operation and management side of the business. Their insistence to continue playing at a small poorly located facility in front of not even capacity crowds, shows me they lack what it will take to get the team to the next level. They have shown the last two years that there is potential to draw much better at Sporting Park. Their reluctance to do something like Chicago did in renting Toyota Park, at the risk of taking a bigger loss, shows me they lack a long term commitment to capitalize what will be needed to promote and showcase the team properly. Just another example, of not being financially strong and business savvy enough to do what will be necessary for the franchise. It is time to pass the baton to someone else.

      • TsovLoj

        The Borislow clause? You know, maybe, although it’s kind of a nuclear option.

      • Even if the Likens are removed and Budzinski didn’t keep any interest in the team and the team was acquired by SKC, I don’t know that matches would move to Children’s Mercy Park immediately and/or full-time.

        SKC’s other team, the Swope Park Rangers, play at Swope Park. It would be easy for them to keep two teams playing there instead of moving the women’s team to CMP. I don’t think the ownership would want a team playing there that wasn’t selling out. They are pretty proud of their sellout streak for SKC, and doubt they would hypothetically play FCKC there without the team selling at least 10K in season tickets first.

        I do find it interesting, however, that Vlatko gave up his coaching job for the Comets, so his ties to the ownership group are now just centered on FCKC.