Multiple players have accused former Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke of verbal and emotional abuse, according to a report by Molly Hensley-Clancy of the Washington Post.
The National Women's Soccer League club announced Tuesday that Burke was stepping down as head coach amid "health concerns" and was being re-assigned to the front office. He was reportedly fired by the organization Wednesday, according to Meg Linehan of The Athletic, after the Washington Post story was released.
Former Spirit player Kaiya McCullough said that Burke not only screamed at her constantly during training sessions but also made racially insensitive jokes toward her.
"I was 100 percent in a situation where I was being emotionally abused by Richie," McCullough told Hensley-Clancy. "He created this environment where I knew I wasn’t playing as well, because I was so, so scared to mess up and be yelled at. It crippled my performance, and it made me super anxious."
"He made me hate soccer," she added.
The former UCLA star left the team in September 2020 to play in Germany, explaining at the time that the move served as a "mental health break," via BBC Sport.
"I just wanted to put myself in a position to be the absolute best that I could be, and in the environment I was in I just didn't think that was happening for me," McCullough said.
Two other former Spirit players told the Washington Post they left the club because of Burke, describing him as "abusive." They have chosen to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.
Burke had been Washington's coach since 2018 and led the squad to a 5-3-5 record to begin the 2021 season. He previously served as the head coach of D.C. United's Under-23 team before moving to the NWSL.