Problem within the National Women’s Soccer League


This year is women’s basketball head coach Kevin Baker’s 16 year anniversary in his college basketball career. He’s also the first coach in the UTEP program to have three winning seasons within four years at the university. Photo courtesy of the National Women’s Soccer League

Itzel Giron, Multimedia Editor

Earlier this month, a probe into The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, was released revealing a “systematic problem” of sexual misconduct and emotional and verbal abuse in the league.
The investigation came after allegations by former NSWL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim came forward in September 2021 against the former coach of the North Carolina Courage, Paul Riley.
Riley was fired in 2015 by the Portland Thorns FC but was still hired by the now defunct team Western New York Flash, despite the piles of complaints against him that kept growing.
It was not until 2021 that he was fired again by the North Carolina Courage and had his coaching license suspended. The investigation also found that five of the 10 coaches either stepped down or were fired for allegations of misconduct according to NPR.
Former NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird, who was hired only 19 months prior to these allegations coming out, stepped down for her handling of the allegations as well as not prioritizing players.
This created a conversation among not just the Soccer community, but how toxic women’s sports can be.
“The players are not doing well. We are horrified and heartbroken, frustrated, and exhausted,” said Becky Sauerbrunn, current United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNST) and Portland Thornes player, during a USWNST Training Camp Press Conference. “We are angry it took a third-party investigation. We are angry that it took an article in The Athletic and The Washington Post and numerous others. We are angry it took over 200 people sharing their trauma to get to this point right now.”
Many among the league have come out to speak about their first-hand experiences as well as their experience trying to report these individuals. Along with Sauerbrunn, big names like Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Abby Wambach and others have come out to speak up against the misconduct and mishandling of these allegations.
Allegations such as these are seen not just in soccer at the professional level but are equally seen in the collegiate level, high school level and in city league teams.
It was also in 2021 that former coach Cameron Newbauer of The University of Florida was fired for allegations of physical, mental, and racial abuse in the women’s basketball program.
But why is it that women’s sports face such allegations and struggle to find a non-toxic environment? Or is it hard to find coaches who have no toxic behaviors?
It is not just a problem in the United States but across the globe as many teams find themselves faced with allegations of all sorts.
So how does the women’s sport collective change the narrative on toxic behavior?
Since the Yates Investigation, there has been no distinct set of rules or punishments rolled out to prevent allegations like this from happening. However, the USWNT Players Association released a statement in hopes of improving the league and how people are hired.
“All players and employees deserve to work in an environment free of discrimination, harassment, and abusive contact. The USWNTPA commends the courage of the survivors, current players, and former players who came out to speak against abusive practices that have become far too normalized in the NSWL and women’s soccer generally.”
Itzel Giron is the multimedia editor and can be reached at [email protected]; @by.itzel.giron on Instagram; @itzel_anahi_16 on Twitter.