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'I was absolutely outraged!' - Gio Reyna's family responds to Gregg Berhalter blackmail reports in USMNT scandal

21:38 GMT+3 04/01/2023
Gio Reyna USMNT 2022
Gio Reyna's family responded to accusations of blackmailing Gregg Berhalter with information about 1991 domestic violence incident.

Berhalter on Tuesday admitted to kicking his wife in a 1991 domestic violence incident currently under U.S. Soccer investigation, but said he had been blackmailed over details about it after the World Cup.

It has now been reported by ESPN and other outlets that winger Reyna's family was involved in providing damaging information about Berhalter to U.S. Soccer.

Berhalter limited Reyna's playing time in Qatar and then appeared to bash him in thinly-veiled comments to a conference. His mother, Danielle Reyna, admitted on Wednesday that she placed a call to U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Steward because of her "outrage" at how Gio had been treated. She denied the conversation amounted to blackmail.

Danielle Reyna was the roommate of Berhalter's wife Rosalind in college, which is when the domestic violence incident took place. Meanwhile, Claudio Reyna, the father of Gio, is a former USMNT player.

Key points from Danielle Reyna's statement

Danielle Reyna's full statement (included later in this story) was more than 400 words long, but below is a summary of what she said.

  • Admitted to calling Stewart on December 11
  • Said Stewart is friend and she didn't mean to prompt investigation
  • "Outraged" at Berhalter
  • Claimed Berhalter has minimized explanation of 1991 incident
  • She denied making threats and said she was "betrayed"
  • Also said she never asked for Berhalter to be fired

What did Berhalter say about blackmail?

"During the World Cup, an individual contacted U.S. Soccer, saying that they had information about me that would 'take me down' - an apparent effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer," Berhalter wrote this week.

U.S. Soccer said the blackmail claims are part of its ongoing investigation.

Danielle Reyna's full statement about Berhalter accusations

“To set the record straight, I did call (U.S. Soccer sporting director) Earnie Stewart on December 11, just after the news broke that Gregg had made negative statements about my son Gio at a leadership conference,” Danielle Reyna said in a statement on Wednesday. “I have known Earnie for years and consider him to be a close friend. I wanted to let him know that I was absolutely outraged and devastated that Gio had been put in such a terrible position, and that I felt very personally betrayed by the actions of someone my family had considered a friend for decades."

"As part of that conversation, I told Earnie that I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age. Without going into detail, the statements from yesterday significantly minimize the abuse on the night in question. Rosalind Berhalter was my roommate, teammate and best friend, and I supported her through the trauma that followed. It took a long time for me to forgive and accept Gregg afterward, but I worked hard to give him grace, and ultimately made both of them and their kids a huge part of my family’s life. I would have wanted and expected him to give the same grace to Gio. This is why the current situation is so very hurtful and hard.”

Danielle Reyna’s statement continued: “At the time I called Earnie, many people were trashing Gio on social media due to Gregg’s comments, and I didn’t know when or if this would stop. I just wanted Earnie to help make sure that there would be no further unwarranted attacks on my son. I thought our conversation would remain in confidence, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anything I said could lead to an investigation. I’m not criticizing Earnie here. I very much commend the recent efforts by U.S. Soccer to address abuse of women players, and I understand now he had an obligation to investigate what I shared. But I want to be very clear that I did not ask for Gregg to be fired, I did not make any threats, and I don’t know anything about any blackmail attempts, nor have I ever had any discussions about anyone else on Gregg’s staff—I don’t know any of the other coaches. I did not communicate with anyone in U.S. Soccer about this matter before December 11, and no one else in my family has made any statements to U.S. Soccer regarding Gregg’s past at all.

“I’m sorry that this information became public, and I regret that I played a role in something that could reopen wounds from the past.”