Abuse in NWSL was «systemic»: report


Today the “Report of the Independent Investigation to the U.S. Soccer Federation Concerning Allegations of Abusive Behavior and Sexual Misconduct in Women’s Professional Soccer” is released to the public. 

One year ago today, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) retained Sally Yates and King & Spalding to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).  The independent investigation’s 172-page report details the investigation’s findings and makes recommendations for action going forward. It also releases materials from two prior investigations concerning coaching misconduct—one conducted by the Portland Thorns and one conducted by U.S. Soccer.

USSF cooperated fully with the investigation, provided all necessary resources, and granted the independent investigation team full autonomy to follow the facts and evidence wherever they led.

As detailed in the report, the independent investigation found that abuse in the NWSL was systemic. Verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct occurred at multiple teams, was perpetrated by several coaches, and affected many players.

Teams, the NWSL, and USSF not only repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse, they also failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it.  As a result, abusive coaches moved from team to team, with positive references from teams that obscured the misconduct. Those at the NWSL and USSF in a position to correct the record stayed silent. And no one at the teams, the NWSL, or USSF demanded better of coaches.

“The U.S. Soccer Federation has taken an important step forward in undertaking this independent investigation and making good on its promise of transparency by publicly releasing the report,” said Sally Yates, who led the investigation.  “Our investigation revealed that abuse in the NWSL is not simply about one team, one coach, or one player. It is not even just about the League. Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.  The players who have come forward to tell their stories have demonstrated great courage. It’s now time that the institutions that failed them in the past listen to the players and enact the meaningful reform players deserve.”

A copy of the report, recommendations, and appendices is available here.

The independent investigation’s confidential reporting line will remain available at SoccerInvestigation@kslaw.com and 1-877-KS-INFO-9 (1-877-574-6369).

The King & Spalding all-women investigative team included Laura Harris, TaCara Harris, Amy Hitchcock, Jamie Lang, Jeanne Fugate, Marisa Maleck, Jennifer Guest, Emily Chen, Heather Saul, Ashley Cordero, Erin Sullivan, Lauren Devendorf, and Micha Nandaraj Gallo. 

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