An independent investigation has found systemic abuse and misconduct within women’s professional soccer.
The report, led by former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates and released Monday, was based on over 200 interviews and reveals the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) under the US Soccer Federation failed to provide a safe environment for players.
“Our investigation has revealed a league (NWSL) in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims,” the report reads. “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.”
The report comes about a year after the 12-team NWSL was thrown into chaos following a report by The Athletic detailing allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct against Paul Riley, who coached three NWSL franchises over eight seasons. He was fired by the North Carolina Courage after The Athletic cited players on the record alleging that for years, Riley used his influence and power to sexually harass players and in one incident, coerce a player into having sex with him.
Riley denied the charges in the report. CNN has not been able to reach Riley for comment.
In the wake of that report, the NWSL commissioner resigned and the league called off all matches scheduled for that weekend. By the end of the year, half of the league’s teams had parted ways with their coaches after player complaints, the Yates report notes.
Monday’s report states that sexual misconduct and abuse was far more widespread than just one coach or incident.
“In well over 200 interviews, we heard report after report of relentless, degrading tirades; manipulation that was about power, not improving performance; and retaliation against those who attempted to come forward,” the report states. “Even more disturbing were the stories of sexual misconduct. Players described a pattern of sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and sexual touching, and coercive sexual intercourse.”
The NWSL said Monday it would review the findings.
“We recognize the anxiety and mental strain that these pending investigations have caused and the trauma that many — including players and staff — are having to relive,” the league said in a statement.
“This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” said US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone. “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.”
The NWSL players association praised the players who cooperated with the investigation and spoke up about the abuse and misconduct.
“As difficult as this report is to read, it has been even more painful for Players, whether known or unknown, to live it. We appreciate their efforts to seek the truth in support of our work to transform NWSL,” the association said.
“These stories have inspired us to engage in collective action to bring about change. By sharing our stories, Players are reclaiming the League and the sport,” the association added.