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Key Facts From the US Soccer Investigation into the NWSL Abuse Scandal

Everything you need to know about the report of findings from the US Soccer investigation into widespread abuse allegations in pro soccer, particularly the NWSL, from our friends at Just Women’s Sports.

This week, the professional soccer landscape in the US and Canada experienced a shockwave — and honestly, it couldn’t have come soon enough. Monday, Oct. 3 marked the release of findings from an independent investigation by former Deputy and Acting US Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and law firm King & Spalding, as commissioned by the US Soccer Federation, into widespread abuse allegations, repeatedly of a sexual nature, in women’s pro soccer — especially in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Our friends at Just Women’s Sports have been among those leading the charge in analyzing and contextualizing what all of us need to know, and we are proud to highlight their incisive work on such a heavy, troubling, and frequently graphic series of issues.

Read on for takeaways from JWS regarding such key topics as:

  • Patterns of abusive and coercive behavior from now-former NWSL head coaches Paul Riley (Portland Thorns), Rory Dames (Chicago Red Stars), and Christy Holly (Racing Louisville)
  • Systemic efforts by NWSL clubs to obfuscate or otherwise hinder the investigation despite public pronouncements about their intentions to cooperate fully
  • Top-line conclusions from the report via Sally Yates herself
  • How NWSL players are reacting to the news
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NWSL Coach Abuse Investigation: US Soccer Reports “Systemic” Issues

It’s hard to finger-point when there are so, so many parties implicated in some way in either committing despicable acts or preventing said acts from coming fully into the light.

As JWS’ Emma Hruby wrote on Oct. 3:

The full findings of U.S. Soccer’s investigation, which was conducted by former U.S. attorney general Sally Q. Yates, were released Monday and include new information on accusations against former NWSL coaches Paul Riley, Rory Dames, and Christy Holly.

Holly requested a one-on-one film session in April 2021 with Erin Simon, who played for Louisville at the time and now plays for Women’s Super League club Leicester City. Holly told Simon he would touch her for every bad pass on the game film, and “he pushed his hands down her pants and up her shirt,” according to the report.

The report provides details of Riley coercing one of his players into a sexual relationship.

Players from Dames’ time as a youth coach said he spoke to them about their sex lives and “crossed the line to sexual relationships in multiple cases, though those relationships may have begun after the age of consent,” according to the report.

Click here to read the full story at Just Women’s Sports.

Mana Shim, NWSL Abuse Victims Call for Removal of Complicit Owners

Naturally, the athletes of the NWSL who both witnessed and withstood these rank abuses and the systemic failures that enabled them had no plans to stay quiet following Monday’s release of so many damning findings from the US Soccer investigation.

As JWS’ Emma Hruby wrote on Oct. 4:

Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly, and Erin Simon issued a joint statement Monday in the wake of US Soccer’s report on “systemic” abuse and misconduct in the NWSL calling for accountability among the league’s ownership ranks.

In 2015, as a player for the Portland Thorns, Shim accused then-Thorns coach Riley of sexual harassment and coercion, which led to his dismissal from the team. Her account was corroborated by then-teammate Sinead Farrelly in an October 2021 report published by The Athletic, in which Farrelly also described her own experiences of sexual coercion and harassment from Riley.

Click here to read the full story at Just Women’s Sports.

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US Soccer Report: Three NWSL Clubs Hindered Abuse Investigation

This scandal is not one of a handful of coaches abusing their positions in some sort of vacuum — the organizations that chose to hire them and pay them must face an unabridged reckoning as well.

As JWS’ Emma Hruby wrote on Oct. 3 regarding the Portland Thorns:

“The Thorns refused to produce relevant documents for months, making specious arguments that the materials were protected by the attorney-client and attorney work product privileges, causing months of delay and impeding interviews of key witnesses,” the report reads.

Additionally, the Thorns “impeded our access” to witnesses and failed to produce relevant documentation “for months,” citing attorney-client privilege, according to the report. The club later withdrew such assertions.

Regarding the Chicago Red Stars:

The Red Stars, meanwhile, failed to provide documentation for six months. While documents were requested for the investigation on Dec. 13, 2021, the club “did not make its first substantial production” until May 6, and provided documents up until as recently as Sept. 13.

“In addition, the Red Stars initially sought to narrow the scope of our investigation by declining to produce documents beyond those relating directly to Rory Dames,” the report adds….

Regarding Racing Louisville:

Lastly, Racing Louisville “refused to provide any information” in regards to former head coach Christy Holly’s tenure with the team, according to the report. Holly was fired “for cause” last August, though the club did not elaborate on the reasons at the time. US Soccer’s investigation revealed new information about Holly’s departure, including Erin Simon’s accusations of sexual coercion and abuse against her former coach.

During the investigation, the report reads that Racing Louisville did not permit witnesses — including former employees — to answer questions about Holly’s tenure, citing non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements….

Further Reading

Keep it locked on Just Women’s Sports for further coverage of the US Soccer investigation into abuse across the NWSL. In the meantime, here’s the rest of our recommended reading list:

Read More:

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.