US star Megan Rapinoe has urged football authorities to use the “horrifying” revelations of systemic sexual abuse and misconduct in the American domestic women’s game as a catalyst for change.
A report published by former US attorney general Sally Yates earlier this week featured multiple allegations of abusive behaviour by team coaches in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
More than 200 NWSL players — many of them members of US national teams — were interviewed by Yates and detailed patterns of abuse including manipulation and tirades.
“It’s horrifying,” Rapinoe told reporters on Thursday on the eve a friendly between the US women’s team and England at Wembley. “Even when you know some of the information, to have it spelt out plainly like that is horrible.
“It has been difficult for the players (in the US team). Some of them will have played with those clubs and those coaches, likely have been abused in one form or another in different environments. It can definitely be re-triggering and re-traumatising.
“It’s really difficult for everyone in the landscape in women’s sport. Hopefully this can be a moment in time to make sure this kind of thing never happens again.”
Rapinoe, who plays for OL Reign in the NWSL, wants world football’s governing body FIFA and national team federations to create stricter and more defined guidelines to ensure women players are better protected in future.
“They didn’t protect the players at all amid year after year of this. Every single year someone said something about multiple coaches,” Rapinoe said.
“One of the main things is having some kind of policy in place. If there is absolutely nothing to hold people accountable, it’s difficult.
“Whether it’s FIFA or the federations, having a reporting system that has some teeth in it that the players can trust.
“Obviously that is a monumental task — a lot of these federations aren’t funded very well. From FIFA’s standpoint, as stewards of the game, they have a responsibility to do everything in their power to make sure players feel safe.”
‘Angry and exhausted’
Rapinoe, a two-time World Cup winner, said it was wrong that the US squad were growing used to dealing with the fall-out from scandals around the mistreatment of women players.
“We are angry and exhausted, and together and unified. It’s really sad to say but in a way we are used to dealing with one thing or another,” she said.
“We’ve had to shoulder a lot, whether it was the lawsuit, equal pay or kneeling. As sick as this sounds, we are used to taking on so much more than game-plan and tactics.”
Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson was accused in the report of enabling misconduct by former Thorns manager Paul Riley. Paulson subsequently announced he was stepping away from decision-making duties.
And following the report’s publication, Arnim Whisler, owner of the Chicago Red Stars and a NWSL board member, confirmed he was stepping away from his roles.
“I don’t think that Merritt Paulson’s fit to be the owner of that team. I don’t think Arnim is fit to be the owner of Chicago. We need to see those people gone,” Rapinoe said.
US head coach Vlatko Andonovski said earlier this week that members of his squad would be given the option of sitting out this week’s game pitting the world champions against European champions England if they decided they were not in the right frame of mind.
Earlier on Thursday, England forward Beth Mead said the European champions would join with the US players in a show of solidarity ahead of Friday’s friendly in front of a sell-out crowd.
Rapinoe, 37, welcomed the gesture, saying: “It means everything, to have them acknowledge what we are going through.
“There is no report that came out here but I feel like there could be one in every country. We are all fighting together for the same things.”
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