Sexual misconduct and abuse ‘systemic’ in US women’s football, says report


A year-long independent investigation released on Monday said that sexual misconduct and abuse have become “systemic” in the top-flight National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States.

“Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct-verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct-had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims.”

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.”

The controversy started in 2021 when former North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley faced allegations of sexual abuse after a report by The Athletic. The report carried first-hand accounts from a number of players who played under him since 2010. In the aftermath of the controversy, former Commissioner Lisa Baird lost her job and Sally Q. Yates launched this investigation.

According to the report, there were multiple instances of sexual abuse in the league and Yates warned the US Football authorities that a number of cases are still unreported.

“This investigation’s findings are heart-breaking and deeply troubling,” said Cindy Parlow, US Soccer’s president and a former player on the US women’s national team told Reuters. “The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace.

“As the national governing body for our sport, US Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players – at all levels – have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete. We are taking the immediate action that we can today and will convene leaders in soccer at all levels across the country to collaborate on the recommendations so we can create meaningful, long-lasting change throughout the soccer ecosystem,” she added.

While most clubs were quite supportive, the report said that three teams – the Portland Thorns, Racing Louisville FC, and the Chicago Stars – did not cooperate with their investigators.

“The Portland Thorns interfered with our access to relevant witnesses and raised specious legal arguments in an attempt to impede our use of relevant documents,” the report read. “Racing Louisville FC refused to produce documents concerning [former coach] Christy Holly and would not permit witnesses (even former employees) to answer relevant questions regarding Holly’s tenure, citing non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements it signed with Holly. The Chicago Red Stars unnecessarily delayed the production of relevant documents over the course of nearly nine months.”

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