Thursday, June 23, 2022
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Current and former softball players sign open letter refuting KC Star report

U-News has reached out to former and current players, UMKC’s administration, and the Kansas City Star for comment. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Twenty-five current and former softball players repudiated a report published by the Kansas City Star in which three former players accused Assistant Coach Greg Bachkora of sexual harassment in an open letter to the UMKC community.

In the Star’s report, former players accused Bachkora of consistently entering the women’s locker room, kissing players on their foreheads and cheeks and joking about female genitalia.

The letter, which was emailed to U-News by a current player late Tuesday night, claims the Star “went about their reporting and journalism all wrong.”

“We, as players (previous and current), do not like being disrespected, our team does not deserve this reputation, and we will stand up for ourselves as a family in any way that we can,” the letter reads.

The players say they have received an overwhelming amount of support from the public and campus community since the Star’s article was published on Sunday, but they are worried that support “is getting misplaced.”

Although Bachkor himself admitted to a number of accusations leveled against him both in the Star’s article and in a complaint filed against him by a former player last May, the players say the Star’s version of events does not add up.

The letter addresses the Star’s claim that Bachkora would regularly enter the women’s locker room unannounced. In the report, parents of the former softball players said the women would often have to scramble to cover themselves or duck behind furniture so that Bachkora would not see them naked.

According to the letter, “The dimensions of our locker room are set up in a way that it is impossible for anyone to be interrupted or seen without their knowledge.”

Every non-player who enters their locker room is required to knock and ask permission before entering, a protocol they say Bachkora always followed.

The players say it is “unbelievable” their assistant coach is getting backlash for using a microwave located in the girl’s locker room.

The letter also negates the claim, leveled against Bachkora by one of the three former players in the Star’s report, that he recently entered the locker room while a player was in the shower with no curtain. The former player told the Star, “my teammates had to yell at him to get out.”

The 25 players who signed the open letter tell a different story.

“The comment made about the shower curtain is false,” they claim. The letter alludes to a photo (which was not attached in the file sent to U-News) that proves every shower in the locker room has a curtain. The players claim the showers are “rarely used.”

The letter also includes a statement from Abigail Johnson, a former softball player who was contacted by the Star for the story. In the statement, Johnson says Bachkora is being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment.

Johnson says she requested her name not be included in the article with her statements. The Star complied with this request to not publish her name, and the final report did not include any of her statements. She criticizes the reporter for “only using statements she thought would help promote the accusers’ story.”

When asked to comment on the letter, the Star told U-News Johnson’s statements were excluded from the story at the request of her mother.

While the players say they respect the right of the three former players to express their feelings, “Under the circumstances of these claims, we are here to say that accusations of any sexual harassment committed by any coaches is downright false.”

“This is our side of things, the side that The Star failed to include in a narrative surrounding the culture of our team,” the letter continues. “The names included in this document have read, contributed, and agreed to the message we are trying to convey and we are proud to stand up for this man, this school, and this program.”

The Star’s article stated that multiple former and current players defended Bachkora when they were approached by the reporter. One former player told The Star Bachkora was “helpful to the team” but she ultimately left because she “wasn’t happy with the ‘coaching style at UMKC.’”

According to The Star, other former and current players who support the coach declined to be interviewed.

The joint statement comes after two days of intense criticism aimed at UMKC’s softball program and administrators.

While Assistant Director of Strategic Communications Stacy Downs told U-News the school is satisfied with its original investigation into the complaint filed against Bachkora last May, Director of Athletics Brandon Martin announced Tuesday that Bachkora is taking a short leave of absence while the athletics department “review[s] all aspects of UMKC softball.”

UMKC told U-News that Chancellor Agrawal has read the players’ joint statement, calling it “a powerful letter that speaks for itself.”

Read the full letter here

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