Sources: NWSL Washington Spirit Owner to Sell Shares

Steve Baldwin, the controlling owner of the Washington Spirit, informed the club’s other investors Thursday of his intention to sell his shares, sources confirmed to ESPN. Spirit belongs to the top division of professional women’s soccer in the United States, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

The Washington Post was the first to report Baldwin’s plans.

Baldwin has been under pressure from players to sell his shares to co-owner Y. Michele Kang since reports emerged that former coach Richie Burke verbally abused the players, as well as another separate report detailing how a culture toxic infiltrated much of the organization.

A source told ESPN that Baldwin e-mailed other investors that he hoped to sell the team by the end of this year, although he did not name a specific individual or group that would be willing to buy the team.

The Post reported that in the email, Baldwin said: “I have heard calls for a change. I understand that many of our fans, players and investors consider that the club requires new leadership, direction and energy. And I agree.”

Baldwin, who has owned the Spirit since 2019, has been battling Kang for control of the Spirit. According to The Washington Post, an alleged deal for Baldwin to sell his shares to Kang fell through only for him to change his mind. Baldwin had said before that he would step away from his roles as CEO and managing partner, although at the time he made no mention of selling his shares.

The NWSL is currently investigating Spirit around the allegations surrounding Burke and the team’s work culture.

The turbulence comes at a time when the league is held accountable to abuse claims made against coaches and executives. In all, four coaches have been fired or forced to resign, including former NC Courage manager Paul Riley, who was fired following allegations of sexual coercion made by two former Portland Thorns players.

FIFA, the United States Soccer Federation (known as US Soccer), the NWSL and the Women’s Association (NWSLPA) are all conducting investigations into allegations of abuse that have arisen in the last month.