Systemic failure after systemic failure in women's soccer

October 05, 2022
As discussed on yesterday’s episode of The GIST of It, U.S. Soccer released the highly anticipated findings from the year-long independent investigation into abuse allegations in the NWSL, and the conclusions are even more damning than expected.
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SOURCE: ROY K. MILLER/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: ROY K. MILLER/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

Content warning: This section contains mention of sexual assault.

The GIST: As discussed on yesterday’s episode of The GIST of It, U.S. Soccer released the highly anticipated findings from the year-long independent investigation into abuse allegations in the NWSL, and the conclusions are even more damning than expected.

The context: It’s been nearly a year to the date since a bombshell report from The Athletic detailed sexual abuse allegations against former Portland Thorns head coach (HC) Paul Riley.

  • Five of the league’s 10 HCs ultimately resigned or were fired as a result of the ensuing league-wide reckoning.

The investigation: That tumult also set off a U.S. Soccer investigation — led by former U.S. deputy attorney general Sally Yates — into the accusations made against Riley.

  • Over 200 people were interviewed for the 319-page report, revealing “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 also found that “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.” Devastating.

The response: Like the aforementioned Sauerbrunn, current and former players are rightfully calling for complicit owners to be ousted, with supporters and league sponsors also demanding change.

  • Thorns owner Merritt Paulson — who owned the team at the time of Riley’s abuse — did announce yesterday that he would step away until the NWSL/NWSLPA (who have joined forces to conduct their own investigation) release their findings, which are expected by the end of the season in November.

What’s next: While Yates’ report outlines seemingly no-brainer recommendations in response to the findings, she makes it clear it’s up to the NWSL to act, writing, “it’s now time that the institutions that failed them in the past listen to the players and enact the meaningful reform players deserve.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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