NWSL Teams did so Little to Combat Sexual Abuse Committed Against Players

An investigation report has shown sexual coercion, verbal abuse, and sexual misbehavior by several league coaches, placing the National Woman’s Soccer League in serious trouble.

The investigation also reveals the league’s officials’ complacency in response to players’ long-running concerns.

The author of the report, Sally Q. Yates, is a former US attorney general. The organization decided to request Yates to carry out a more thorough inquiry into the allegations raised by soccer players after the league was attacked by controversial articles from The Athletic and The Washington Post.

We are able to summarize major findings from Yate’s report after the author carefully inspects and analyzes the cases.

The problem is systemic

Rory Dames, Christy Holly, and Paul Riley, the NWSL coaches, were the major aspects of Yates’s judgment. The lack of accountability contributed to the persistence of the abuses on the part of the US Soccer Federation, teams, and leagues.

But the study went beyond focusing on the particular crimes perpetrated by the parties, connecting and bringing up the problem of systematic abuse against women.

“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,” the report added.

“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.”

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Found guilty, but teams still accept them

Other teams continued to accept a coach some teams sacked after exposure. This only suggests that their careers were only minimally affected by the penalties for the offenses they committed.

“[A]busive coaches moved from team to team, laundered by press releases thanking them for their service, and positive references from teams that minimized or even concealed misconduct.”

“Those at the NWSL and USSF in a position to correct the record stayed silent. And no one at the teams, the League, or the Federation demanded better of coaches.”

Minimal participation by stakeholders

Yates made several attempts to reach other coaches and teams implicated in the charges but to no outcome. In addition, the 300-page study by Yates omitted several interviews that might have advanced the investigation of the issue.

“Certain witnesses— including the former Commissioner of the NWSL, Jeff Plush—never responded to our outreach. Others refused to be interviewed, some because they feared retaliation. Still others—including former USSF Chief Executive Officer Dan Flynn—agreed only to respond to written questions rather than sit for an interview. Certain teams did not fully cooperate, notwithstanding public statements to the contrary.”

“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. Racing Louisville FC refused to produce documents concerning Christy Holly and would not permit witnesses (even former employees) to answer relevant questions regarding Holly’s tenure, citing the 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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Inaction on the part of the authorities

Yates contends that the lack of development was not due to the players’ reluctance to respond to their legitimate complaints about abusive coaches but rather to the failure of those in authority to take action.

“(Players) repeatedly brought their concerns to the teams, to the league, and to the Federation, which founded and acted as manager of the league during much of the relevant time period.”

“But those who were in a position to make a difference didn’t. They not only failed to respond appropriately to evidence of abuse, they had also failed to institute the most basic measures to prevent and address these issues to begin with, even as some of them privately acknowledged the need for these things like an anti-harassment policy,” Yates stated.

“Without these protections in place and without the transparency necessary to ensure misconduct wasn’t swept under the rug, abusive coaches moved from team to team.”

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer

Source: NPR


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