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Abuse ‘systemic’ in US women’s soccer: report – Taipei Times

A year-long independent investigation into abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer in the US has delivered a damning verdict.

“Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims,” the report said.

“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,” it said.

Photo: AP

Examples of misconduct listed in the report included a coach showing a player pornography during a game-film review and masturbating in front of her, and another who coerced players into sexual relationships.

The report, headed by independent investigator Sally Yates, excoriated the NWSL and warned about potential abuse in girls’ soccer.

“This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” said US Soccer Federation (USSF) president Cindy Parlow, a former player on the US women’s national team. “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,” she said. “We are taking the immediate action that we can today.”

The report found that teams, the NWSL and US Soccer failed to put basic safeguards in place for players.

“Teams, the League, and the Federation not only repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse, they also failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it,” the report said.

“As a result, abusive coaches moved from team to team, laundered by press releases thanking them for their service, and positive references from teams that minimized or even concealed misconduct. Those at the NWSL and USSF in a position to correct the record stayed silent,” it said.

The investigation was commissioned after reporting by the Athletic last year found widespread abuse of players — both sexual and emotional — in the NWSL.

The report also said that three clubs — the Portland Thorns, Racing Louisville and the Chicago red Stars — failed to cooperate with investigators.

“The Portland Thorns interfered with our access to relevant witnesses and raised specious legal arguments in an attempt to impede our use of relevant documents,” the report said.

“Racing Louisville FC refused to produce documents concerning [former coach] Christy Holly and would not permit witnesses (even former employees) to answer relevant questions regarding Holly’s tenure, citing non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements it signed with Holly,” it said.

“The Chicago Red Stars unnecessarily delayed the production of relevant documents over the course of nearly nine months,” it said.

The investigators did not look at youth soccer, but the report warned about the risks of abuse there.

“The roots of abuse in women’s soccer run deep and will not be eliminated through reform in the NWSL alone,” it said.

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