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Report details 'systemic' abuse in National Women's Soccer League

By Jonna Lorenz
Sally Yates former acting attorney general, detailed widespread and systemic abuse in the National Women's Soccer League in a report released Monday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/10b3ba57b00553b39decafc206c824f3/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Sally Yates former acting attorney general, detailed widespread and systemic abuse in the National Women's Soccer League in a report released Monday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct were systemic in the National Women's Soccer League, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The report follows a yearlong investigation led by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates after The Athletic published an article detailing accusations of sexual coercion and inappropriate comments by Paul Riley of the North Carolina Courage.

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"The article brought the NWSL to an immediate standstill," Yates wrote in the executive summary of her report, adding that player complaints led half the teams in the league to part ways with their head coaches.

"Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct -- verbal and emotional and sexual misconduct -- had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches and victims," Yates wrote.

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"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."

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The report details allegations against Riley, who was fired in September 2021, along with previously unreported allegations of abuse and misconduct against Christy Holly and Rory Dames "to illustrate the gravity and breadth of the misconduct at issue and institutional failure that perpetuated it."

Holly, the former head coach for Racing Louisville FC, was accused of pushing his hands down the pants and up the shirt of a player during a one-on-one film session after telling her he would touch her for every bad pass.

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Holly was fired on Aug. 30, 2021, but the circumstances surrounding his dismissal weren't disclosed, The Washington Post reported.

Dames, a coach for the Chicago Red Stars until his resignation on Nov. 21, faced allegations of misconduct as a youth coach in the 1990s.

The report said he was "renowned for his tirades against the young girls who played for him." Former players described a sexualized team environment, including talk of foreplay, oral sex and players' sex lives and requests for massages.

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He wasn't subjected to a background check before joining the NWSL, where he is accused of creating a "hostile environment for players" and being "abusive" and "unprofessional," according to the report.

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The report also detailed a culture of abuse, silence and fear of retaliation that allowed the misconduct to continue.

"The teams', League's and Federation's repeated failure to address misconduct that seemed to be widely known -- or at least widely suspected -- also caused some to believe that reporting would be futile," the report said.

U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone called the investigation's findings "heartbreaking and deeply troubling," and said the federation would convene leaders at all levels to collaborate on implementing the report's recommendations.

"The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace," Cone said in a news release.

"As the national governing body for our sport, U.S. 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."

Among the changes to be made, U.S. Soccer will establish a new office of participant safety to oversee conduct policies and reporting mechanisms; publish disciplinary records to publicly identify individuals who have been disciplined, suspended or banned; and mandate a uniform minimum standard for background checks.

The federation said it will publish an action plan for implementing the report's recommendations on or before Jan. 31.

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