Women’s Soccer League Hires Law Firm to Investigate Misconduct Allegations

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A series of investigations by Covington & Burling will also examine the league’s workplace culture in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against the coach.

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The investigation will also include reopening a 2015 investigation into coach Paul Riley, who was accused, in a report published Thursday by The Athletic, of sexually abusing players at the Portland Thorns. Riley was screened before leaving for the team that is now the North Carolina Courage, which fired him following the athletic report. He denied having sex with the players.

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Covington & Burling is also prepared to review and potentially reopen previous investigation reports into complaints of discrimination, harassment and abuse. The team will be led by Amanda Kramer, assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

It will report to a new three-woman executive committee made up of team officials from around the league, including Amanda Duffy, who was the league’s president in 2019, before moving to Orlando Pride, Angie Long’s post for a year. were handling. Sophie Sauvage, the majority owner of the Kansas City NWSL and a member of the NWSL board representing OL Governance.

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The league said the investigation would include a review of practices and policies at the league and club levels, including workplace policies for each club in the league, a league-mandated anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, and how to deal with violations of those policies. procedures are involved. , and that new policies may follow.

“On behalf of the league as a whole, we are shocked that so many players have suffered just to play their favorite sport, and we are deeply sorry,” the new executive committee said in a joint statement. “We understand that we must make a significant systematic and cultural change to address the issues necessary for NWSL players and their fans to become the type of league they deserve and gain the trust of both.”

Baird resigned late Friday amid mounting criticism over the league’s handling of the Riley case and other cases of alleged abuse. Earlier on Friday, the NWSL expressed grief that this weekend’s matches would not be played as scheduled.

Public attention to the Riley case came after other reports of abusive or inappropriate behavior in recent months by coaches or officials of several teams, including Utah Royals FC and the Washington Spirit.

Star players including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan took to twitter to criticize the league’s lack of prior action in the Riley case, and The first iterations of the professional women’s football league also pointed to endemic abuse..

“The league was informed several times about these allegations,” Morgan wrote, who played under Riley in Portland several years ago. “The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse.”

Morgan was not the focus of the athletic story, which included detailed allegations of a series of incidents by retired player Sinead Farrelly forcing him to have sex with his coach.

Morgan on Thursday posted emails with Baird from earlier this year in which Morgan said he had raised concerns about Riley during the 2015 investigation, which went unnoticed.

Baird and the NWSL said on Thursday that they had sent a report about the relay to the US Center for SafeSport, which investigates allegations of sexual misconduct in amateur sports—including members of amateur sporting bodies that also play in professional leagues. work. NWSL requires a license from US Soccer for coaches.

On Friday, the center’s searchable database listed Riley as receiving a temporary suspension from US Soccer due to “misconduct allegations”.

US Soccer, which helped found the NWSL, said on Friday it would hire an investigator to investigate the allegations at Athletic.

International football association FIFA also said that its judicial bodies had started a preliminary investigation.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at [email protected]

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