Several times over the past year, we told you that (now ex-)Union coach Peter Nowak was an asshole. Now we have some evidence… provided by Nowak’s lawyer in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Union last week. Documents from the lawsuit were obtained by Philly.com.
In June, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz announced at a press conference that Nowak had been fired. The announcement wasn’t much of a surprise, as it came in the midst of a lousy start for the Union and on the heels of a report that Nowak was actively seeking the head coaching position with Hearts, of the Scottish Premier League. It was clear that there was some friction between Nowak and the front office, players, and even fans. Still, though, the team softened the language at the press conference, saying only that Nowak had “stepped down.” Against his will, of course.
What really happened?
The Union told Nowak he was being fired and gave him one of two options: either sign a termination agreement (this one) that would pay him only through only the end of 2012 – not 2015, like his contract (this one) stipulated – or don’t sign, in which case he would not be paid any severance and his contract would not be honored based on reasons (causes) that were detailed in a letter to Nowak (this one).
In the lawsuit (this one), Nowak, who was to be paid roughly $400,000 a year through 2015, claims wrongful termination, citing a clause in his contract (this one) that states he be given 15 days to “cure the occurrence” of any cause for termination. Of course, the lawsuit makes no mention of the sentence that follows that clause: except that Club shall have no obligation to provide Manager such opportunity to cure if Club determines, in its good faith judgment, that the occurrence is of a nature that is not curable or that Manager's continued employment during a cure period could be reasonably be expected to result in material harm to Club.
Translated: If the Manager is such a colossal asshole beyond repair, and keeps trading away our best players, we can fire him without notice.
Nowak's lawyer left that part out.
The letter detailing those causes for termination (this one) is awesome, along with the separation agreement detailing Nowak's two options (take the severance or receive nothing), were given to Nowak on the day he was fired– there was no 15-day notice.
So what were the causes, you ask? Mr. Nowak’s attorney included the letter in the lawsuit, and I can’t imagine it is going to help his client, either in this case or in the long-term.
You can read the entire thing here, but here's the fun part:
various material breaches of League Rules (including the League's Collective Bargaining Agreement), including physical confrontations with players and officials during a Team game resulting in a fine and multi-game suspension, interfering with the rights of Team players to contact the players' union with concerns, subjecting Team players to inappropriate hazing activities and engaging in behavior that put the health and safety of Team players at risk.
material breaches of the Employment Agreement, including engaging in discussions regarding, and otherwise actively seeking, employment by other professional soccer teams in Europe and making disparaging remarks to third parties regarding Club, its management and its ownership.
demonstrating gross negligence, including putting the health and safety ofTeam players at risk by requiring injured players to participate in strenuous training activities, not allowing players to have water during such activities despite temperatures in excess of 80 degrees, ignoring the advice of the head athletic trainer regarding which players are healthy enough to play in games and participate in training sessions and creating an atmosphere where medical issues should be hid from medical staff and not treated.
committing actions that have reflected ill a materially adverse manner on the integrity, reputation and goodwill of Club and the Team (in the eyes of the League, U.S. Soccer, current and potential Team players, sponsors and fans), including the unusually harsh treatment of players described above, actions during Team games that have resulted in fines and suspensions, the multiple breaches of League Rules and a discussion (by you or your agent on your behalf) with the head of U.S. Soccer that was in very poor taste and leti a very bad impression with U.S. Soccer.
multiple incidents of insubordination with respect to the Club's Chief Executive Officer, including claiming at one point (in direct contradiction to the terms of the Employment Agreement) that he does not report to the Club's Chief Executive Officer.
various material breaches of Team Rules, including creating a hostile work environment and culture of fear for Team players and other front office employees by orally berating and physically intimidating fellow employees.
See, I told you he was an asshole. The Union are accusing Nowak of insubordination, endangering the health and well-being of players, embarrassing the team and league, and generally – as expected – being an asshole.
There are two sides to every story, though, and it seems like the Union aren’t exactly acting in good faith (rarely in sports are contracts not upheld). But, the claims against Nowak go well beyond technicalities. Fighting with players, seeking other employment, and endangering the health of athletes by going against the medical staff are serious offenses for a coach. The Union are clinging to them as reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay Nowak, but Nowak and his lawyer are grasping at a technicality in an effort to have the contract honored.
We’ll keep you updated.