NWSL Wants To Expand But SHould Solve Harassment Problems First

The league has some very serious sexual harrassment issues.

The National Women’s Soccer League plans to add a new franchise soon, and league officials will decide if Boston, or the San Francisco Bay Area, or the Tampa Bay market fits its business model. The league also will try to get beyond a massive problem in 2023. There was a pattern of abusive behavior from management toward the players. In mid-December, 2022 the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association released the findings of their joint investigation into workplace abuse which included “widespread misconduct” in the league. The NWSL and the NWSLPA started the probe led by former acting United States Attorney General Sally Yates to investigate the claims in October 2021 after a report in The Athletic detailed allegations of sexual harassment and coercion made in 2015 against Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley. Riley moved on from Portland and ended up coaching the NWSL’s Western New York Flash, a team based in Elmira which moved to Cary, North Carolina in 2017 and was renamed the North Carolina Courage. Riley was fired after The Athletic story.

There was a similar problem with the league’s Chicago Red Stars ownership which dismissed player complaints about head coach Rory Dames. The Red Stars and Thorns franchises are up for sale.  The league will enter a new phase where behavioral boundaries are to be established. The NWSL will implement a policy “that will create clear rules regarding romantic and/or sexual relationships and/or encounters between players and staff”. The NWSL will also increase background checks on its personnel and come up with standards for alcohol use in social settings. The NWSL may also be cleaning up its act because there is money to be split by the owners in the expansion pot, perhaps as much as $40 million. Money talks.

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