Opinion: NWSL Abuse Allegations

On Mon. Oct. 3, an investigation opened regarding abuse and sexual misconduct allegations by male coaches in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Conducted by former U.S. deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, and commissioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), these allegations have sent a shock throughout the soccer community. 

The investigation is enormously focused on “former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly, former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley and former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames,” ESPN said. 

Soccer has been known to be a progressive-based sport with very democratic beliefs and up-to-date rules. These allegations are strikingly scary as they have been going on for so long with little to nothing being done about abusive coaches taking advantage of young female athletes.

“I found this case surprising, because I feel like there hasn’t been popularized cases that relate regarding professional soccer,” Juliet Baltrun, junior ex-soccer player, said. “Typically events like these are known to occur in college gymnastics, specifically the Larry Nassar case in 2016.”  

With players speaking out constantly, still nothing was being done by high administrators as the athletes continuously dealt with extensive abuse for years. Why was nothing being done? Why were these coaches not fired or suspended immediately after hearing about these disgusting allegations? 

“Jeff Plush, the former commissioner of the NWSL, ‘never responded’ to investigators. He led NWSL from 2015 to 2017, and although Plush was aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Riley, he did not step in to prevent Riley from continuing to coach in the league. He is now the CEO of USA Curling,” ESPN  reported

The National Women’s Soccer League is responsible for letting these coaches verbally, emotionally and sexually abuse young women. Going into a sports league, women should feel safe. Neither the league nor team organizations have protected these athletes. 

“For so long, this has always fallen on the players to demand change, and that is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us and they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable,” U.S. Women’s National Team Captain, Becky Sauerbrunn, said. “And it’s my opinion that every owner and executive and U.S. Soccer officials who have repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players, who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations should be gone.” 

Verbal abuse has aged back all the way to youth-aged athletics. Over the past decade, younger athletic organizations have become more serious with many different competitions and championship opportunities. Children are now subject to extensive yelling and hurtful comments. 

“I have not heard whether the abuse started with youth teams, however, I would not be surprised considering that many college athletes are minors. I thankfully have never experienced a similar situation in my 10 years of travel soccer,” Baltrun said. 

Although the investigation is on-going, the USWNT is showing extensive resilience and will continue to practice for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, held in the continent of Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). Their first game will be held on Saturday, July 22 against Vietnam in Eden Park, Auckland, playing in Group E.