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THE SYSTEMIC ABUSE WITHIN WOMEN’S SOCCER

The U.S. Soccer Federation recently published an investigative report highlighting widespread abuse within the National Women’s Soccer League.

On Oct. 3, the U.S. Soccer Federation released a report on its year-long investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and verbal and emotional abuse by coaches in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Conducted by former U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and the King and Spaulding Law Firm, the independent investigation found that misconduct and abuse was widespread across the NWSL despite players repeatedly reporting these incidents.

During a phone call with reporters at the time of the report’s publication, Yates said, “From youth soccer on up, sexist or demeaning statements have been written off as “tough coaching”’ and that these players “are not shrinking violets. They are among the best athletes in the world.”

The report also included recommendations for the NWSL to out abusers and prevent further misconduct and abuse down the line. These recommendations included suspending the licenses of coaches that had abused players, properly vetting coaches during the hiring process, teams being required to report misconduct and abuse to the NWSL and the U.S. Soccer Federation, ensuring coaches do not have too much authority over various aspects of players’ lives, and teams designating a specific position or role for player safety.

The U.S. Soccer Federation launched their investigation a year ago after several NWSL players accused Paul Riley, Christy Holly and Rory Dames, three NWSL coaches that also were the primary focus of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s investigation.

One allegation was by Sinead Farelly, who was coached by Riley on three different teams, of committing sexual misconduct and sexual coercion. Farelly said that Riley would often take the team to bars and drink with them. Over time, she started to share personal information with him. Eventually, in 2011, Farrelly said that Riley had her sit on his lap and touched her hips. She described this instance to The Athletic, “I felt claimed. That word honestly describes it perfectly for me, because I have this feeling that he went around and he looked at his prospects, and he zeroed-in on me. He claimed me; that’s what his touch felt like. I just remember thinking, is anyone else seeing this?” Later, Farelly said that Riley coerced her into sleeping with him and spending the night with him at his hotel room.

After Farelly’s allegations and other allegations by players across the NWSL, several coaches resigned or were fired –  some moving to other teams after being fired – and the NWSL’s Commissioner Lisa Baird was fired after allegations that she dismissed players’ claims of abuse by their coaches.

Throughout the course of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s investigation into abuse within the NWSL, Yates and the King and Spaulding Law Firm interviewed over 200 people and reviewed 89,000 documents. Their investigation revealed widespread systemic abuse that was largely ignored despite numerous players reports. These findings emphasize the need for major changes within the NWSL to ensure abusers are punished accordingly and they do not have a chance to coach again. Now, it is up to the league to implement solutions for proper justice for all NWSL players.

Shivani is a second-year microbiology major at the University of Florida. She enjoys sharing important updates about the local community and around the world with readers through her writing. In her free time, Shivani enjoys reading journals and magazines, drawing henna, binging shows on Netflix, and listening to music.