Emotional abuse and sexual misconduct are systemic in the National Women’s Soccer League, according to an independent report.
The report was commissioned by former U.S. Soccer Attorney General Sally Yates and law firm King & Spaulding following allegations of harassment and sexual coercion by former players.
Ms Yates said in the report: “Abusive behaviour in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture of women’s football, starting with the youth leagues, which normalises verbal abuse of coaches and blurs the lines between coaches and players.
“The verbal and emotional abuse of players described in the NWSL isn’t just ‘tough’ coaches, nor are the players affected by the backing Violet – they are some of the best athletes in the world.”
Five of the league’s 10 head coaches were sacked or resigned after allegations of misconduct last season, and the report said future coaches should face greater scrutiny and more timely investigations into allegations of abuse of power.
The report focuses on former coaches from the North Carolina Courage, Paul Riley, Kristy Hawley of the Louisville Motorsports team and Rory Dames of the Chicago Red Stars.
It includes allegations of an encounter between Holly and Erin Simon, who is now playing in England. Holly invited Simon to watch a replay of a game with him, and she allegedly told her he would touch her every time she screwed up.
Simon, 28, told investigators that Holly “reached her pants and shirt”.
‘This report makes our voices finally heard’
“Through many difficult days, only my faith held me up and kept me going,” she said in a statement.
“I want to do everything I can to make sure no other player has to go through what I did.
“This report makes our voices finally heard and is the first step towards achieving the respectful workplace we all deserve.”
Holly declined to comment when contacted by the Louisville Courier-Magazine.
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As for the other coaches, Riley told The Athletic that the allegations of harassment against him were “completely untrue.”
The Washington Post’s February report on Dames’ conduct included a response from his attorney, Susan Bogart, who said the sexual harassment and sexual harassment allegations against him were false.
Football bodies condemn abuse
“The abuse described (in the report) is inexcusable and has no place in any playing field, in any training facility or in the workplace,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said.
“As the national governing body of 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.”
The NWSL said it was still reviewing the report, but Commissioner Jessica Berman said: “Building trust and confidence between the league, its players and other key stakeholders remains a core focus of the NWSL and we know we must learn and take responsibility. Learn painful lessons from the past to propel the league to a better future.”