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U.S. Women’s Soccer League Dealing with Rampant Abuse Per New Report

U.S. Soccer hired Sally Q. Yates, a former acting U.S. Attorney General, to investigate sexual and verbal abuse complaints throughout the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). The newly released report focused on three league coaches and found inaction by the teams, the league, and the U.S. Soccer Federation in response to complaints about these three coaches. Beyond that, the report condemns the NWSL for allowing verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct to "become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims." The report further states, "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."

Yates and her team interviewed more than 100 current and former NWSL players. Yates noted that some individuals and some teams, such as the Portland Thorns, Racing Louisville FC, and Chicago Red Stars, did not cooperate with the investigation. Yates' report reflects that some players repeatedly complained about coaches for years. Other players were afraid to speak up because of the impact on their income, housing, medical treatment, and playing time. Moreover, most teams did not have human resources departments or designated individuals to whom players could complain. The teams failed to take even basic steps to protect the players. When teams did release a coach for misconduct, the coaches just moved on to positions with other teams because there was no disclosure of their abusive behavior.

The Yates report recommends holding those responsible accountable for any misconduct by team staff, improving transparency, and "fostering a professional environment where players are treated with respect." To create such an environment, the report recommends that teams be required to disclose misconduct to the league and U.S. Soccer and suspend the coaching licenses of those individuals. Each team should designate someone as responsible for player safety. The NWSL is in the middle of conducting its own investigation and said it will use the results of both reports to implement "systemic reform." Several National Women's Soccer League players have called upon those individuals who failed to protect the players to leave the league.