NWSL announces new executive group after harassment scandal

Oct 3, 2021, 4:15 AM | Updated: 8:21 pm
FILE - The North Carolina Courage celebrate with the championship trophy following their win over t...

FILE - The North Carolina Courage celebrate with the championship trophy following their win over the Chicago Red Stars in an NWSL championship soccer game in Cary, N.C., in this Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, file photo. The National Women’s Soccer League will not play the games scheduled for this weekend as it deals with the fallout from allegations of sexual misconduct against a former coach. North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley was fired by the team following a report in The Athletic that detailed the alleged misconduct, which included claims from two former players of sexual coercion. The NWSL did not specify Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, whether the games were canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)

(AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Following the resignation of the National Women’s Soccer League commissioner amid a sexual harassment and misconduct scandal involving a longtime coach, a three-woman executive committee has been formed to oversee league operations.

The NWSL also launched an independent investigation Sunday into its handling of abuse claims. The league was rocked this week when two former players came forward with allegations of harassment, including sexual coercion, against North Carolina Courage coach Raul Riley.

Riley was immediately fired by the Courage, and both FIFA and U.S. Soccer opened investigations into why he was able to continue coaching even after the players brought their concerns to the league.

The NWSL called off its games this weekend and Baird stepped down Friday night.

In addition to the NWSL’s announcement, U.S. Soccer said it had retained former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to lead its investigation into abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer. Yates now works in the private practice.

“U.S. Soccer takes seriously its responsibility to vigorously investigate the abhorrent conduct reported, gain a full and frank understanding of the factors that allowed it to happen and take meaningful steps to prevent this from happening in the future,” the federation said in a statement.

The league’s board of governors appointed an executive committee made up of Amanda Duffy, Angie Long and Sophie Sauvage to oversee the front office until a new commissioner is named.

“On behalf of the entire league, we are heartbroken for what far too many players have had to endure in order to simply play the game they love, and we are so incredibly sorry,” the three said in a joint statement Sunday. “We understand that we must undertake a significant systemic and cultural transformation to address the issues required to become the type of league that NWSL players and their fans deserve and regain the trust of both.”

The league retained an outside firm to investigate allegations and report to the executive committee. The investigation includes the claims against Riley as well as all other historical complaints of discrimination, harassment or abuse.

The NWSL, in its ninth year, also said it was conducting an independent review of practices and policies among its teams. Additionally, comprehensive policies and procedures would be adopted to ensure “a systematic, transparent, and effective execution of any harassment or workplace conduct issues.”

A secure and anonymous reporting platform was set up so that players and staff can report misconduct.

While the NWSL games this weekend were called off, in Portland supporters set off smoke bombs in the 25th minute of the Major League Soccer match between the Portland Timbers and Inter Miami. A large sign was displayed that read: Believe, support and protect NWSL players.”

Supporters were also scheduled to rally on Sunday night in Seattle outside Lumen Field, where the Sounders were set to play the Colorado Rapids.

U.S. Soccer suspended Riley’s coaching license Thursday after The Athletic published claims of abuse made by former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim.

The alleged harassment of Farrelly started in 2011 when she was a player with the Philadelphia Independence of the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league.

She told the website that harassment continued when she was with the Portland Thorns. Shim, a former Thorns player, also allegedly experienced harassment. The Thorns said Thursday that the team investigated claims about Riley and passed those on to the league when he was dismissed.

Riley told The Athletic the allegations were “completely untrue.”

Riley was head coach of the Thorns in 2014 and 2015. After he was let go by the Thorns, he became head coach of the Western New York Flash for a season before the team was sold and moved to North Carolina.

Baird became commissioner of the NWSL in February, 2020, after serving as chief marketing officer of the United States Olympic Committee. She was praised for bringing new sponsors to the NWSL and increasing the league’s visibility on the national stage, as well as guiding the organization through the coronavirus pandemic.

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

United States' Christian Pulisic controls the ball during the international friendly soccer match b...
Associated Press

US World Cup worries grow, 0-0 draw vs Saudis in last tuneup

The United States ended its World Cup tuneup matches in unimpressive fashion, playing a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night at Murcia, Spain, that saw oft-injured Gio Reyna come off in the 30th minute because of muscle tightness. Christian Pulisic returned to the depleted U.S. lineup after missing Friday’s 2-0 loss to No. […]
14 hours ago
Attorney Alexandra Benevento, center, speaks with reporters during a news conference announcing a c...
Associated Press

Sex abuse allegations spread against cheerleading industry

Sprawling allegations of abuse against cheerleaders reached Tennessee on Monday in a case that escalates the accusations facing some of the sport’s top institutions. An adult coach sexually assaulted teenage boys at Premier Athletics, according to allegations in a federal lawsuit filed in Memphis that is similar to a previous complaint against Rockstar Cheer in […]
2 days ago
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge looks out before a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Sunday, S...
Associated Press

MLB playoff primer: Things to know as postseason nears

Major League Baseball’s postseason has a little more heft this season. The playoffs are rapidly approaching, with the final regular season games set for Oct. 5. The postseason begins two days later with a field of 12 teams — up from last year’s 10 — and includes a best-of-three format for the opening wild-card round. […]
2 days ago
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (3) strips the ball from New York Giants wide receiver Ster...
Associated Press

Veteran Giants receiver Sterling Shepard has torn ACL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the New York Giants’ final offensive play in their loss to the Dallas Cowboys, coach Brian Daboll said Tuesday. Daboll had indicated after Monday night’s game that the injury to New York’s leading receiver was […]
2 days ago
Stephen F. Austin safety JaTerious Evans brings down the Warner quarterback for a sack during an NC...
Associated Press

‘Whoa, 98-0’: Coach of team on end of huge loss OK with it

Two days after his Warner University football team lost 98-0 to Stephen F. Austin in one of the most lopsided games of all time, Dialleo Burks channeled his inner P.T. Barnum. Like the 19th-century circus impresario once said, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. It was in that vein that Burks recalled a conversation […]
2 days ago
United States' Kahleah Copper runs past South Korea's Heo Yeeun during their game at the women's Ba...
Associated Press

Kahleah Copper’s FIBA diary: Rest, rest, rest

SYDNEY (AP) — Rest, rest and more rest. There’s been a lot of basketball in a short time and finding time to recover has been key to staying fresh and having success. You have to take care of your body. I have to give a huge thank you to the training staff of Courtney (Watson), […]
2 days ago
NWSL announces new executive group after harassment scandal