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NWSL Announces Oversight Committee in Wake of Paul Riley Allegations

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVOctober 4, 2021

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The NWSL's board of governors formed an executive committee to oversee the league's decisions going forward after commissioner Lisa Baird resigned in the wake of sexual coercion and abuse allegations against now-former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley.

The committee, made up of the Orlando Pride's Amanda Duffy, Kansas City's Angie Long and the OL Reign's Sophie Sauvage, released the following statement Sunday:

"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. 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. We're committed to doing just that and recognize that this won't happen overnight, but only through vigilance over time."

The NWSL added the league would be implementing "several critical investigative and reform initiatives to protect players and staff, and the environments in which athletes live, train, and compete to give athletes the agency and ability to safely report misconduct of any form."

NWSL general counsel Lisa Levine is also no longer with the league.

The NWSL finds itself at the center of a major scandal involving several head coaches and executives, most prominently Riley, with several players telling The Athletic's Meg Linehan that he sexually coerced them and made comments about their sexuality and weight.

A number of USWNT players spoke out against the NWSL:

Becky Sauerbrunn @beckysauerbrunn

<a href="https://t.co/XrV2EQA0oL">https://t.co/XrV2EQA0oL</a> <a href="https://t.co/PjMt8l20ZC">pic.twitter.com/PjMt8l20ZC</a>

Alex Morgan @alexmorgan13

(1/3)The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations. The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse. <a href="https://t.co/KDRBhhVBcT">https://t.co/KDRBhhVBcT</a>

Alex Morgan @alexmorgan13

(3/3) <a href="https://t.co/BkGlHsPiV4">pic.twitter.com/BkGlHsPiV4</a>

Megan Rapinoe @mPinoe

Never once during this whole time was the right person protected. Not Mana, not Sinead, not us not the players not the little girls who will become us not the big girls who already are us not any of US. This statement is beyond disrespectful. <a href="https://t.co/HDPkFhFEc6">https://t.co/HDPkFhFEc6</a>

Megan Rapinoe @mPinoe

Men protecting men, who are abusing Women. <a href="https://t.co/EO0ecKND1t">https://t.co/EO0ecKND1t</a>

"Due to the severity and seriousness of the allegations being made by players, we can confirm that FIFA's judicial bodies are actively looking into the matter and have opened a preliminary investigation," FIFA said in a statement. "As part of this, FIFA will be reaching out to the respective parties, including US Soccer and NWSL, for further information about the various safeguarding concerns and allegations of abuse that have been raised."

The Washington Spirit's Rickie Burns was also terminated with cause last week and had previously been suspended after being accused of abuse. Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue was fired in July after being investigated for potential violations of the league's anti-harassment policy, though she denied all claims of wrongdoing.

And OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti resigned in July, with the club's chief executive officer and minority owner Bill Predmore revealing last week it was requested after an undisclosed incident. Lindsey Horan also accused Benstiti of sexism and making inappropriate comments about her weight in the past.

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