An independent investigation has found that abuse and misconduct is “systemic” in the National Women’s Soccer League, and that the league, teams and the governing U.S. Soccer body failed to adequately protect players.
The investigation was commissioned last year following allegations that North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley had been sexually abusing players for many years.
The report reads “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 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalises verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.”
The report was headed by former US attorney general Sally Yates and found examples such as coaches showing pornography to players in supposed game film review sessions, masturbating in front of players and coercing players into sexual relationships.
Former national team player and current U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow said “This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling. 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.”
The report was critical of the league, teams and U.S. Soccer saying “Teams, the League, and the Federation 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, even as some leaders privately acknowledged the need for workplace protections.”. The report read, “As a result, abusive 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.”
The NWSL said it would immediately review the findings, and added that the joint investigation between the league and its players' association is ongoing. You can read the NWSL’s statement here