4 Former Coaches Banned By NWSL After BigLaw Abuse Claims

The National Women’s Soccer League permanently banned four former coaches from working in the league on Monday, in the wake of BigLaw investigations that uncovered severe sexual misconduct and toxic working conditions for NWSL players.

NWSL FieldPhoto Credit: ShutterstockOver the course of the last year, numerous law firms have detailed malfeasances involving teams in the league including emotional, racial and sexual abuse as well as workplace discrimination.

After reviewing those findings, NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman took action against a number of individuals on Monday, including the lifetime ban of four former head coaches: former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames, Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly and former Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke.

“The league will continue to prioritize implementing and enhancing the policies, programs and systems that put the health and safety of our players first,” Berman wrote. “Those actions are fundamental to the future of our league, especially as we build a league that strengthens our players’ ability to succeed and prosper on and off the pitch.”

The NWSL also suspended former Red Stars general manager Alyse Lahue and assistant coach Craig Harrington for a length of two years. Six other league employees were also suspended, with their reinstatement conditional on a determination from Berman that they accept responsibility for the conduct identified in the reports and acknowledge wrongdoing.

Chicago and Portland received the harshest of the disciplinary actions, receiving $1.5 million and $1 million fines respectively. More notably, the league announced that each franchise will be forcibly sold from its current ownership. OL Reign, Carolina Courage, Racing Louisville and Gotham FC were each issued lesser fines.

NWSL’s turbulence began following the findings of a King & Spalding LLP investigation in October, which uncovered unbridled sexual misconduct, as well as verbal and emotional abuse, within the league’s coaching staffs. Those findings were reinforced by a joint report issued in December by Covington & Burling LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP.

The two reports outline many systemic issues that the league seemingly ignored for years. It’s reported that coaches frequently acted inappropriately, pressuring players into sexual relationships by leveraging their influence and even sexually assaulting them in some cases.

The NWSL Players Association, the league’s union, described the decision as “a critical first step towards holding clubs and team leaders accountable for their actions, or inactions, that compromised and betrayed player safety.”

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