The NWSL investigation revealed misconduct in the “vast majority” of the clubs


This is a developing story and will be updated.

The National Women’s Soccer League’s core culture created a “fertile ground for non-reporting of misconduct,” according to a new investigation, which found that the league’s financial instability and imbalanced power dynamics opened the door to rampant abuse across many teams and the involvement of many coaches and team managers. .

This investigation is the second high-profile investigation into abuse across the world of women’s soccer, at the request of the NFL and the players’ union. The 125-page report, released Wednesday, includes a new account of abuse involving former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, and previously unreported details of the firing of former NY/NJ Gotham FC general manager Alessi Lahue and the suspension of Houston. Dash. Coach and General Manager James Clarkson.

Similar to a report by US Soccer, which was released in October, the investigation by the National Soccer League (NWSL) details Riley’s misconduct; Rory Dames, former coach of the Chicago Red Stars; and Kristi Holley, former Louisville Racing head coach. But the NWSL report also highlights six other coaches and focuses on errors and mismanagement by league teams and team owners, including the behavior of eight teams who ignored or mishandled complaints and warning signs of abuse.

“This report clearly reflects how systematically our league has failed to protect our players,” NFL Commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement Wednesday. “On behalf of the Board of Directors and the league, allow me first and foremost to sincerely apologize to our players for these failures and missteps. They are They deserve, at the very least, a safe and secure environment to participate at the highest level in a sport they love, and they have my unwavering commitment that achieving this change will continue to be a priority every day.”

In addition to the cases of sexual abuse and manipulation, which were revealed in previous media reports and in the NFL investigation, the NFL investigation found that “employees in positions of authority made inappropriate sexual remarks to players, mocked players’ bodies, and pressured players to losing unhealthy amounts of weight, crossing professional boundaries with players, creating volatile and manipulative working conditions. They have used derogatory and degrading language to players, displayed insensitivity to the mental health of players, and engaged in retaliation against players who attempted to report or report their concerns.”

The report concluded that female players are “failure” in American football as new abuse allegations emerge

According to the new report, “misconduct against players has occurred in the vast majority of NWSL clubs at various times from the league’s early years to the present.”

“Players were repeatedly reminded of the association’s fragility and financial instability. From the early days of the association, they were told to be grateful, loyal and acquiescent, even if they were not given the resources or respect due to the professional athletes,” the report reads. “Players told the JIAT that this environment discourages them from reporting misconduct. This effect is exacerbated by the league’s lack of training, policies, and other resources related to harassment, abuse, and other forms of misconduct.”

The report was the product of a joint investigation by two law firms: Covington & Burling, on behalf of the league, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, employed by the NWSL Players Association. Investigators reviewed 200,000 documents and interviewed about 100 current and former NWSL players, as well as 90 current and former club employees.

The investigation began in October, shortly after the Washington Post and The Athletic reported allegations of mistreatment at several clubs, prompting players to demand action from stakeholders in the sport. US Soccer appointed Sally Q. Yates, acting district attorney, to conduct a separate investigation around the same time. In the aftermath of this report, Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson announced he was selling the club, the team’s managers were fired and coach Ryan Wilkinson resigned. Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Wessler has succumbed to the day-to-day control and announced earlier this month that he was selling the team. In all, eight of the league’s 10 coaches lost their jobs, and NFL commissioner Lisa Bird resigned.

The NWSL report details many of the same violations, lays out some details and analyzes why misconduct persists. Many of the cases involved authority figures who failed the players – and in some cases were at the heart of the problem.

Perspective: Another ‘report’ on abuse in women’s sports. When is enough?

According to the report, LaHue, the general manager of Gotham from 2019-21, made “unwelcome sexual advances toward a player,” sending inappropriate text messages, questioning the player’s interactions with others and pressuring the player for more attention. I sent the player text messages saying, “You were in my dream last night. Getting a massage,” and “Don’t consider us friends.”

The LaHue club launched this past July. According to the report, LaHue denied the allegations. Her attorney did not immediately return a letter seeking comment on Wednesday.

The report says the NWSL did not wait to act on the investigators’ findings. Orlando Pride coaches Amanda Cromwell and Sam Green were fired in October to take revenge on the players; Clarkson was suspended from Houston.

According to the NWSL report, Clarkson “communicated with two players in a manner that created anxiety and fear in many players.”

“In one case, Clarkson suspected players of drinking alcohol the night before a game, so he called the players to a meeting and berated them in a way that left several players feeling intimidated and offended,” the report says. Clarkson was suspended in April, and the club said at the time that the final decision on his status would be made at the conclusion of the NWSL investigation.

Shortly after the report was released on Wednesday, Dash announced that it would not be renewing Clarkson’s contract, which is set to expire at the end of the month. “We apologize to the current and former players who were subjected to misconduct by James Clarkson,” the team said in a statement. “…our vision for building and maintaining a culture of excellence on and off the field begins with creating a respectful and healthy work environment.”

Across the league, the report found a deeply rooted culture where players did not feel empowered to report complaints, and the lines between players and coaches were often blurred.

“Players from marginalized backgrounds, or those with less job security, were often targets of misconduct,” the report reads. “At the same time, these players faced the greatest barriers to speaking out or getting compensation for what they went through.”

The report details for the first time the experience of Callie Kurtz, who played Riley with the North Carolina Courageous. She told investigators that she did not initially report Riley’s behavior for fear of being called a “troublemaker”. The report describes manipulative and capricious behavior from Riley, and Kurtz told investigators that she felt he was being groomed for sexual abuse.

At one point, Riley tells Kurtz to lose 14 pounds to keep her starting position, telling her, “I hope you know I’m doing this because I love you.” Kurtz requested a trade, which the team failed to deliver. Riley was fired by the Courage in September 2021, after the Athletic reported allegations of abuse stemming from his time coaching in Portland, which he denied. He did not meet with NWSL investigators and was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

Rory Dams has been accused of misconduct for decades. He trained his way to fame anyway.

The NWSL report blames US Soccer. The document says the coach’s misconduct was “inadequately investigated or addressed,” and coaches were allowed to pursue new jobs throughout the league even after complaints were substantiated.

“American football’s leaders avoided taking responsibility for systemic failures to protect players, arguing that decision-making authority and responsibility for addressing misconduct rest with the NFL and club owners,” the report says.

American football embarked on a series of reforms in the wake of the Yates Report.

“It’s been more than two months since the Yates report was released, and we’ve already seen he’s had a huge impact on our game,” NFL President Cindy Barlow Kuhn said this week. “Although the report is difficult to read, it was and will continue to improve our sport. The safety of the participants is our top priority and the Yates report has given us a roadmap for making the changes we are now working hard on.”. “

The organization intends to publicly share its action plan to implement Yates’ recommendations by January 31. You’ve appointed Mana Shim to head up the Player Safety Task Force. Shim was one of the first players to speak out about the abuse and misconduct, which she suffered while playing Riley in Portland, and now has a key role in crafting policies that will help current and future players.

“We’re making progress,” she said this week. “…I feel so strong and excited about what we’re doing.”

While many of the coaches cited in the two investigations are no longer employed by the league, the NWSL report makes a series of broad recommendations for league officials. This includes a review of the anti-harassment policy. Establish clear guidelines for appropriate meeting venues; observe the moderators’ guidelines in socializing with players; provide written instructions that make explicit comments and jokes about a player’s weight unacceptable; require separate accommodation for players and club staff; and mandatory training covering anti-bullying, anti-harassment and anti-racism.

“This will be an ongoing process of improving and strengthening our league,” said the NWSL’s Berman.

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