The Chicago Red Stars hired longtime sports executive and attorney Karen Leetzow as president, the NWSL club announced Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:
- Leetzow will join the Red Stars after serving as chief legal officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She was previously NASCAR’s general counsel.
- An ownership group led by Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts purchased the Red Stars in September.
- The Red Stars have struggled on and off the field in 2023, finishing last in the standings with the worst goal differential and with the lowest average attendance in the league. Chicago stands to lose key players to free agency for 2024, including Tierna Davidson and Mal Swanson.
Is this a good move for Chicago?
Leetzow is highly regarded for her work at U.S. Soccer, which included collective bargaining agreement negotiations. U.S. women’s national team Players Association executive director Becca Roux called Leetzow “business oriented while also being compassionate.” If Leetzow was able to help steer USSF through a period of upheaval that included both equal pay and the federation’s ongoing reckoning with abuse and misconduct in women’s soccer, then it could be a good sign she’s prepared to handle the evolving landscape of NWSL.
Club and league officials of the future must be sensitive to player needs in all aspects, from labor to mental health, while being able to push for growth.
What they’re saying
Ricketts said Leetzow “is a committed advocate for women in sports and her work with the U.S. Soccer Federation leadership team to create a new culture is beyond compare” in a statement. “In her distinguished career she has gone beyond barriers and blazed a path for women to have a seat at the table of the C-suite of major sports enterprises and she has assured our athletes are protected and have a level playing field.”
U.S. Soccer CEO JT Batson said Leetzow’s “leadership, strategic vision, and commitment to inclusivity will be felt throughout the Red Stars and the NWSL.”
(Photo of Leetzow, left, and Ricketts, right, courtesy of Red Stars)