A recent independent investigation revealed that the U.S. Soccer Federation has been subjecting players to systemic acts of abuse. Following a large-scale investigation with “over 200 players, coaches, owners, and front office staff across former and current USSF personnel and NWSL clubs,” Sally Q. Yates, from the King & Spalding law firm, released a 173-page report that sought to uncover complaints of misconduct, sexual harassment and abuse.
As with previous lawsuits against large sporting organizations, the complaints dealt with players not having their complaints of misconduct taken seriously or ignored. According to the Yates report, several levels of coaches and organizational leaders “created and maintained an environment where “systemic” abuse was allowed to thrive due to a failure to act on player complaints of abuse.” As a result, players of all ages were subjected to various levels of abuse without anyone in the organization willing to help.
Moving forward, Yates hopes that this will create change within the organization and improve transparency. Yates said, “Our investigation revealed that abuse in the NWSL is not simply about one team, one coach, or one player. It is not even just about the League. Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players. The players who have come forward to tell their stories have demonstrated great courage. It’s now time that the institutions that failed them in the past listen to the players and enact the meaningful reform players deserve.”
One step that the USSF organization plans to take, since this report was released, is to create a Participant Safety Taskforce. Since 2020, USSF has taken more steps to improve methods of reporting complaints such as having SafeSport coordinators oversee athlete safety and compliance; stricter background checks for employees; improve transparency to verify coaches’ licenses and offer more educational tools to prevent abuse and reporting procedures. Moving forward, U.S. Soccer President, Cindy Parlow Cone acknowledged, “U.S. Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players – at all levels – have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete. We are taking the immediate action that we can today, and will convene leaders in soccer at all levels across the country to collaborate on the recommendations so we can create meaningful, long-lasting change throughout the soccer ecosystem.”