NWSL Abuse Allegations and how the league can learn & improve from here
In recent years, the world has seen a drastic growth in quality and interest surrounded around the women's game. Particularly with the success of the last two women's world cups in recent years but also with the emergence of women's leagues worldwide stabilizing and becoming real professional organizations. Whether that be with full time contracts for the players, full time staff, television deals and all the various aspects that make a sporting league professional. For example since the mid 2000s till the turn of the decade now in 2021 women's football has truly become a staple in the universe of football, with viewing numbers growing on a upward trajectory every year. Despite these efforts women's football is still second to the men's game. Although a common issue that's constantly being discussed in both sides of the sport is the different levels of abuse specifically racism and online social media abuse but currently one league especially has come under fire for it's lack of protection of it's players but also it's recent stream of allegations flowing around the league specifically surrounding former NC Courage coach & manager Pat Riley who is now the third coach since august of this year to be fired or leave abruptly alongside other members of the league and/or clubs staff. The prior mentioned is accused of verbal abuse and sexual coercion which stems back years and onward from the moment he began his time with the North Carolina side which is a side that boasts many triumphs and also one that is a strong principle club in the American top flight of women's football.
This began a domino effect as NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird ultimately resigned following the many stories being discussed around this sensitive subject. Pat Riley's circumstance is one in which alone is horrific but unfortunately has led to the awareness of several high position coaches to get fired or make the wise decision to leave their position. It was later revealed Richie Burke the Washington Spirit coach was fired after an independent investigation was conducted by the league, claiming Burke was involved in frequent emotional and verbal abuse. Others prior and during this time period have been fired or dismissed for undisclosed reasons but some would wonder as if this follows a pattern being noticed by the masses now or just other circumstances. It was reported during the summer months that OL Reign based in Seattle, Washington had their coach at the time Farid Benstiti abruptly resign. Which was revealed to be due to a incident that happened during a practice session which immediately after led to the club asking the former coach to step down from the role and his active duties. Christy Holly another circumstance for Racing Louisville but reasons not made public. Regardless it's never a good look for a sports league to have so many of it's teams lead figures and team officials get fired or step down in such a rapid succession. Only in it's ninth year of it's existence it's fair to say that any publicity such as this is one that could tarnish it's reputation and delay anymore progress the league has already made. The women's side of the game is only going to grow and especially in regions of the world specifically like North America with U.S. having strong roots in the game and with their neighbors to the north Canada becoming powerhouses of their own. With scandals has horrific as this it will make things very difficult to have anymore growth around the sport for women and notably this league. Especially a league that seems to have been caught red handed protecting men and individuals who are and were abusing women due to their power.
For most it'll be very difficult to overlook and move past these incidents and start fresh with new fans and the already supporting fans. It's even more difficult when majority of the leagues former and current star players and who some are world cup winners have been vocally discrediting the leagues ability to protect it's players to the fullest let alone a certain standard that's expected with any kind of situation as severe as this. Stars such as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have released heartfelt statements both demanding change and anyone involved whether that be the villain's who committed these heinous acts and the individuals who made attempts at keeping this on the down low to resign and leave immediately. To add salt to the wound the leagues player association were also very vocal in their demands of change. The shockwaves felt across the women's game in North America came at a terrible time, as this was the time to reflect on one of the women's games most prestigious and decorated players Carli Lloyd whose career both in club football and international football is coming to an end. The celebrations of her career were cut short as players in the final weeks and fixtures of the season were seen standing amongst each other despite being on opposite sides but seen in an image of unity to protest the way the league has handled these serious allegations but also how the overall league operates with it's players.
To improve the leagues treatment of players and it's reputation I truly believe the league needs an ultimate restaff from top to bottom with new faces in all departments of the organization with a proven track record with not only football operations but with ambitious goals and ideas on how to keep the women's game in good hands. That may be enough to improve the leagues operations but the league most likely need to rebrand it's image entirely starting with naming the league something else and rebranding it's logos and other images associated with the league. If the National Women's Soccer League here in North America abbreviated into NWSL wants to attract the best players from across the globe it needs to either do what I suggested or something even more drastic or these haunting allegations will be a dark cloud over the league for the remainder of it's existence.