October 16, 2021

NWSL commissioner Baird resigns amid abuse scandal

Read Time:2 Minute, 21 Second

Baird had only been in her position since February 2020 but was forced out due to her handling of allegations against Paul Riley

NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird has resigned amid an ongoing scandal over alleged sexual coercion by former North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley.

Riley was fired by the Courage on Thursday after two of his former players alleged to The Athletic that he harassed them, with one saying he coerced her into having sex with him.

All of this weekend’s NWSL matches have been called off at the request of the league’s players amid the fallout.

What was said?

On Friday night, the NWSL released a brief statement that read: “The National Women’s Soccer League on Friday has received and accepted Lisa Baird’s resignation as its commissioner.”

Why did Baird resign?

Players across the league were outraged after it was revealed that the NWSL declined to investigate allegations against Riley from his former players Sinead Farrelly and Meleana Shim.

Farrelly, who initially came forward with her allegations in 2015, requested this year that Baird re-open the case under the league’s new anti-harassment policy.

On Twitter, U.S. national team star Alex Morgan shared an email exchange between Farrelly and Baird in which Baird declined to investigate the accusations against Riley.

“The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations,” Morgan wrote. “The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse.”

FIFA & U.S. Soccer open investigations

FIFA also confirmed it was opening an investigation into the matter on Friday evening, saying in a statement: “FIFA is deeply concerned by the recent reports in the U.S. made by several players.  

“Due to the severity and seriousness of the allegations being made by players, we can confirm that FIFA’s judicial bodies are actively looking into the matter and have opened a preliminary investigation.

“As part of this, FIFA will be reaching out to the respective parties, including U.S. Soccer and NWSL, for further information about the various safeguarding concerns and allegations of abuse that have been raised.”

U.S. Soccer, who provided administrative support to the NWSL up until last year and still provides financial support, also announced it would launch its own investigation.

“We take seriously our responsibility to vigorously investigate the abhorrent behavior that has been reported and gain a full and frank understanding of the factors that allowed it to happen, and the changes that should be made to make sure it does not happen again,” the federation said in a statement.

“Our goals throughout this process will be transparency, cooperation and accountability.”

Further reading

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