US soccer players are systematically subjected to sexual and emotional abuse in the NWSL, the investigation finds

An investigation has found that emotional and sexual abuse was systematic in the National Women’s Soccer League after a series of scandals came to light last season.

The independent review of the scandals uncovered sexual and emotional misconduct affecting multiple teams, coaches and players, the report released Monday revealed.

Former acting US Attorney General Sally Yates wrote in the report that “abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s football, beginning in the youth leagues, which is normalizing verbally abusive coaching and blurring the lines between coaches and players.”

CBS Sports host Lisa Roman, who reports on the NWSL, tweeted Monday that “the year-long investigation into Sally Yates has concluded. The report looks at US soccer and the NWSL with years of abuse and ignored reports of inappropriate behavior by coaches. It’s disgusting. It’s scary. It’s devastating, heartbreaking and unimaginable. But it’s real.”

“If you have chosen to read the report, please do so with your own mental and emotional health as a priority. If it’s overwhelming, I encourage you to stop reading, take a step back, and speak to a professional if necessary,” she added.

Women’s Sports Exchange co-founder Maggie Yan wrote on the platform that “Sally Yates’ report examining the NWSL (and US soccer) is so heavy. The abuse and lack of action is outrageous + heartbreaking. The level of detail of the report is more than emotionally heavy. Please be careful, log out, air out”.

The investigation was commissioned by US Soccer and the review was conducted by Ms Yates and the law firm King & Spaulding. according to the Associated Press.

The investigation began after former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim accused former coach Paul Riley of harassment and sexual assault over the course of a decade. Her version of events was published in the athlete in September last year.

Mr Rilery denied the allegations but was removed from his job as head coach of the North Carolina Courage. The league’s commissioner, Lisa Baird, also quit her job.

Five of the league’s ten head coaches were fired or left their posts last season on allegations of misconduct.

“The verbal and emotional abuse that players in the NWSL describe is not just ‘hard’ coaching. And the affected players are not shriveled violets. You are among the best athletes in the world,” Ms Yates wrote in the report.

Investigators spoke to more than 200 people and around two dozen organizations and individuals exchanged documents related to the investigation. US Soccer also sent in documents, 89,000 of which were deemed relevant.

US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said the report was “heartbreaking and deeply disturbing”.

“The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on the pitch, training facility or workplace,” she added. “As the national governing body of our sport, US Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in our power to ensure all players – at all levels – have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and thrive can measure.”

One of the report’s many recommendations is that teams must disclose misconduct by coaches to the league and the Football Association, to ensure coaches cannot easily move between teams. The report also proposes better vetting of coaches, as well as faster investigations into allegations of abuse.

The investigation looked at three previous coaches – Mr. Riley, Christy Holly of Racing Louisville and Rory Dames of the Chicago Red Stars.

In April 2021, the report said Mr Holly invited player Erin Simon, who now plays for Leicester City in the UK, to watch a feature film in which he reportedly said he would punish her for any inaccurate pass, that she makes touch.

According to the report, Ms Simon claimed Mr Holly “shoved his hands down her trousers and shirt”.

She added that many players don’t speak up for fear of not being heard.

“I know because I’ve felt this way,” said Ms. Simon, 28. “Through many difficult days, faith alone has carried me and kept me going. I want to do everything in my power so that no other player has to experience what I experienced. This report is finally making our voice heard and is the first step towards the respectful workplace we all deserve.”

She was terminated from her place at Racing Louisville for cause, but the reason was not shared publicly. The team also didn’t tell the investigators why, according to Ms. Yates.

Ms Farrelly said her abuse began in 2011 when she played for the Philadelphia Independence of the Women’s Professional Soccer League.

Mr Riley was her coach at the time. Corresponding the athlete, Ms Farrelly claimed that Mr Riley continued the abuse while she played for the Portland Thorns in 2014 and 2015. Ms. Shim was also on the team and also claimed that abuse had taken place. Both Ms Farrelly and Ms Shim have since left the NWSL.

The team said they investigated the coach in 2015 and reported their findings to the league. Although they didn’t renew his contract, they didn’t share her reasoning.

“The Portland Thorns interfered with our access to relevant witnesses and advanced flimsy legal arguments to prevent our use of relevant documents,” Ms Yates wrote in the report.

Mr. Riley then moved to the Western New York Flash. The team then relocated and became the North Carolina Courage.

Former Thorns striker Alex Morgan wrote on social media last year that “the league has been informed of these allegations on numerous occasions and has declined on numerous occasions to investigate the allegations. The league must take responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse.”

She added that Ms Shim and Ms Farrelly had requested a further investigation of Mr Riley by the NWSL but had been denied.

“US soccer and the entire soccer community needs to do better, and I believe we can use this report and its recommendations as a critical turning point for any organization tasked with ensuring player safety,” said Ms. Parlow Cone Associated Press. “We have a lot of work to do and we are committed to doing that work and driving change across the football community.”

The NWSL said in a statement on Monday that they “will immediately review the Yates report commissioned by US Soccer.”

“We greatly value the collaboration of our players, staff and stakeholders on both investigations, particularly during the current season. We are aware of the anxiety and psychological distress these pending investigations have caused and the trauma many – including players and staff – are reliving,” the league added. “We continue to admire their courage to speak up, share their stories, and influence any changes needed to keep our league moving forward.”

The league said that “the joint and independent NWSL/NWSLPA investigation into misconduct against players in the league is ongoing.”

The NWSL also stated that “building trust between the league, its players and other key stakeholders remains a key concern of the NWSL and we know we must learn from and take responsibility for the painful lessons of the past to bring the league into one.” lead to a better future”. US soccer players are systematically subjected to sexual and emotional abuse in the NWSL, the investigation finds

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