A former intern at New York City FC says she was sexually harassed by David Villa, and the club failed to take her complaints seriously.
Skyler Badillo came into contact with the former Barcelona and Spain striker while working with the MLS club’s training staff as part of her college degree.
Badillo, who was 20 when she joined the team, says Villa told her repeatedly that he loved her and touched her inappropriately. She says Villa, who played for NYC FC from 2014 to 2018, also offered her alcohol when she was under the legal drinking age.
“He started asking me what kind of alcohol I drink, which … I was 20 years old at the time,” she told The Athletic in a lengthy interview published on Monday. “I was like ‘I don’t really drink.’ He was asking ‘well, what kind of alcohol should I buy’ so that I would come to his apartment for a party. I looked at [NYC FC assistant trainer] Melvyn [Pamplona] and said ‘I don’t think this is a good conversation to be having,’ sort of hoping that he would help me out. And his response was just [to say] ‘well it was just a question.’”
A spokesperson for Villa told The Athletic that Badillo’s allegations are “untrue”.
“While David has never faced this type of issue before, he appreciates the seriousness of this matter and believes it is important to encourage people to speak out about their concerns,” said the spokesperson. “When David first learned of this situation two years after he had already left the team, he fully cooperated with the investigation and as he has said from the beginning – any allegations of inappropriate behavior are untrue.”
Badillo first made the allegations on her personal Twitter account in the summer. She says she received abuse for those claims, with some saying her encounters with Villa were merely a case of cultural misunderstanding.
“I’ve been to Spain, I’ve been to a lot of other countries. I’m Puerto Rican. They kiss on the cheek, they hug. That’s not the same thing,” Badillo told The Athletic. “I had athletes who kissed me on the cheek every morning because they asked if that was OK. And that was fine. The insinuation that I just don’t understand cultural barriers is weird, because I think my first year there we had athletes from 14 different countries. I don’t know how and why it would only be one athlete I had an issue with.”
Badillo says that while many of the staff and players at NYC FC were supportive of her, others did not take her claims seriously. In another incident, she was groped by an older man in the team’s press box. She says two members of club staff laughed when she told them what had happened.
Villa left NYC FC at the end of the 2018 season. The club launched an investigation into Badillo’s allegations this summer and concluded there had been failings in its system, but did not mention Villa by name.
“The allegations made during the course of the investigation were that a small number of players and staff did not act in accordance with the club’s standards in their interactions with the intern and with other club staff,” the club told ESPN earlier this month.
“This behavior included unnecessary physical contact, teasing, and comments regarding clothing and appearance. The club found that this behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable.”
The club added that it “is implementing a series of changes within the organization aimed at ensuring that such behavior does not occur in the future”.