Athletes Are Saying The National Women’s Soccer League Is Not A Safe Place To Play
Once again, serious allegations are coming to light in the sports world against a high-profile coach. The allegations highlight the unsafe environment for players in sports of all types after a pervasive culture of sexual misconduct and harassment, that’s far too often swept under the rug by those in power.
Now, as players in the Women’s National Soccer League are coming forward with allegations against a top coach, they are demanding accountability.
As scandals shake the National Women’s Soccer League, some who are in positions of power in the league are already losing their jobs.
This is the biggest crisis the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League has confronted since the league was created in 2012. Following a bombshell report by The Athletic, which detailed allegations against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, the league is facing tough questions on how it let the crisis get so big.
Since the report, Coach Riley has been fired. He was accused of sexual coercion and misconduct against a former coach. U.S. Soccer, which largely supports the league, has launched an investigation and proimised to conduct a full review of the case.
“Player safety and respect is the paramount responsibility of every person involved in this game. That is true across every age, competition and ability level,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Cone said in a statement. “We owe it to each athlete, each fan and the entire soccer community to take every meaningful action in our power to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Additionally, FIFA also announced that they would open an investigation into the case, which is an extraordinary step since the international governing rarely gets involved in a controversy involving a member association.
The scandal is also affecting the players as their games are being cancelled.
Shock and anger within the league (and among fans) rocked the league and forced the cancellation of several games. The NWSL Players’ Association said it hoped fans would understand and support the decision. So far, a total of five games have been taken off the schedule as the league tries to get a handle on the allegations and scandal.
“It is OK to take space to process, to feel and to take care of yourself,” the union said. “In fact, it’s more than OK, it’s a priority. That, as players, will be our focus this weekend.”
The credible allegations highlight the pervasive attitude within the sports world towards abusers and their enablers.
In an interview with NBC News, the first since the allegations came to light, Orlando Pride’s Erin McLeod and New York Gotham FC’s McCall Zerboni said that the league cannot be viewed as a safe workplace.
“No, absolutely not,” Zerboni said. “How do we know that if we turn up to work everyday that this is not going to happen to us? Or that it’s not going to happen again? Because it did, again and again and again and no one in a position of power or ability stopped it.”
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