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US women’s soccer probe uncovers ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct

An independent investigation into allegations of misconduct in US women’s soccer found “systemic” abuse and sexual misconduct, the report released Monday found.

The probe by former US Attorney General Sally Yates and the King & Spalding law firm uncovered verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct, including a pattern of “sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and touching and coercive sexual intercourse.”

The 172-page report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players — many of them members of US national teams — and detailed patterns of abuse from coaches, manipulation and tirades and retaliation for those who came forward with issues.

“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,” Yates wrote in the report’s executive summary.

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.

“The players who have come forward to tell their stories have demonstrated great courage. It’s now time that the institutions that failed them in the past listen to the players and enact the meaningful reform players deserve.”

The report found teams, league officials and the US Soccer Federation “repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse,” and “failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it, even as some leaders privately acknowledged the need for workplace protections.”

That allowed abusive coaches to move from club to club with positive remarks that concealed misconduct.

“Those at the NWSL and USSF in a position to correct the record stayed silent,” the report said. “And no one at the teams, the league or the federation demanded better of coaches.”

USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former US women’s national team player who took charge in 2020 and launched the probe a year ago, said measures are already underway to prevent such violations from happening again.

“This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” Cone said. “The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace.

“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.”

US Soccer initiatives include hiring a full-time SafeSport coordinator, creating a online incident reporting and case management system as well as an anonymous reporting text hotline for US Soccer staff and national team members plus new programs on verifying coaches and referees and background screening for employees.

A new office of participant safety will be established to address the findings and act upon recommendations in the report over the next few months.

“The US Soccer Federation has taken an important step forward in undertaking this independent investigation and making good on its promise of transparency by publicly releasing the report,” Yates said.

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