Ex-NYCFC intern details alleged harassment by David Villa, training staff

Following the completion of an internal investigation that corroborated an ex-NYCFC employee’s sexual harassment allegations against former star player David Villa, Skyler Badillo detailed her disturbing experience as an intern for the soccer club and how her bosses fostered it.

In an interview with The Athletic, Badillo explained her position with NYCFC was for the last of her athletic training degree requirements at Long Island University-Brooklyn. It was under the club’s lead trainer Kevin Christen and assistant trainer Melvyn Pamplona that Villa was allegedly allowed to blatantly and repeatedly harass Badillo while she was working, in addition to their own sexist remarks.

Badillo recalled an occasion when she failed to adequately remove tape from a player’s leg, to which Christen told her he expected her to be “better at cleaning,” because she was “female.” When she went to remove herself from the situation and fold towels elsewhere in the training room, Christen said, “Am I interrupting your laundry?”

Later on in the internship, Badillo said two other training interns at NYCFC’s training facility told her she’d been the subject of an ongoing wager between Christen and Pamplona.

“They told me that there was some sort of bet going on between the head athletic trainer Kevin and our boss, who is in charge of the interns, Melvyn, about which of the two of them was going to sleep with me,” Badillo told The Athletic. “I just remember being like — ‘I’m not sure why you’re telling me this?’ But then it sort of clicked. You know, when you find out information, you think about all the stuff that happened before that. Like, ‘oh, that wasn’t a nice comment, that was actually a joke that I was unaware of.’”

skyler badillo nycfc sexual harassment david villa
Skyler Badillo works with an NYCFC player.Skyler Badillo/@ItsmeskylerB

Badillo said a majority of the NYCFC players were respectful of her and the other women working for the team. But Villa always made her feel uncomfortable. He would repeatedly tell her he loved her in front of several NYCFC personnel and players, including her bosses.

Prior to a weekend off, Villa asked Badillo what her plans were. In attempt to keep the conversation brief, she only told him she planned to be in the city.

“I was just cutting tape, getting tape ready for the Monday morning training, because there wasn’t a lot to do,” Badillo said. “I was standing there and my back was to David. He got up and walked up behind me and put his hands on my hips and sort of pressed me into the counter I was standing at and whispered, into my ear, that I should ‘be careful of men in the city.’ And then he just left … I looked at Kevin and Kevin was looking at me. He’d seen the entire thing.”

Badillo recalled how Christen and Pamplona had a running joke that she would someday file a lawsuit against Villa for workplace harassment. While all this was going on, Badillo was expected to treat Villa.

“That is not super fun,” Badillo said, “when somebody is sexually harassing you.”

In a statement to ESPN after the investigation into Badillo’s accusations were completed, NYCFC said the club had begun to implement a series of changes. An NYCFC spokesperson offered a list of current and future changes to their procedures when pressed by The Athletic about it, including sexual harassment training twice a year and enhancements made to the reporting process for victims of misconduct.

Christen, now 38, left NYCFC in early 2020, months before Badillo went public with her accusations. Pamplona still works for NYCFC. Neither responded to interview requests from The Athletic.