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U.S. soccer hires former acting AG to investigate misconduct allegations

U.S. soccer hires former acting AG to investigate misconduct allegations
Sally Yates, former acting attorney general, has been hired by U.S. Soccer to investigation allegations of sexual abuse committed by a coach in the National Women's Soccer League. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Soccer said it has hired former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of players committed by coaches in the National Women's Soccer League.

In a statement tweeted Sunday evening, U.S. Soccer said Yates' investigation "will begin immediately and she will be given full autonomy, access and the necessary resources to follow the facts and evidence wherever they may lead."

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"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," it said.

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Yates, a Democrat, had worked at the Justice Department for nearly three decades and was the acting attorney general during the initial days of the Trump administration and was the deputy attorney general under the Obama administration.

She has "extensive experience conducting complex and highly sensitive investigations," U.S. Soccer said.

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U.S. Soccer announced it would launch an investigation Saturday, explaining it played "a major role" in the NWSL's establishment in 2013 and provided it with administrative support until last year while still supporting it financially.

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The soccer federation issued the statement in the wake of a report published late last month by The Athletic that accused coach Paul Riley of the North Carolina Courage of having sexually coerced some of his players and made inappropriate comments about their weight and sexual orientation.

The Courage has since fired Riley and NWSL games over the weekend were postponed to give players and coaches "space to reflect."

"business as usual isn't our concern right now," NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement on Friday, the same day NWSL said it accepted her resignation.

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Hours before U.S. Soccer announced the hiring of Yates on Sunday, NWSL's board of governors said it has hired law firm Covington & Burling to oversee its investigations into the allegations and to make recommendations for reform. Amanda Kramer, former assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, will lead the probe, it said.

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An executive committee has also been formed to oversee the league's front office operations following Baird's resignation.

"We are heartbroken for what too many players have had to endure in order to simply play the game they love, and we are so incredibly sorry," the three executive committee members Amanda Duffy, Angie Long and Sophie Sauvage said in a statement. "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 allegations prompted retired defender Christie Pearce Rampone to postpone her Saturday induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame until next year "when we can all properly celebrate women's soccer."

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