NWSL Commissioner Resignation Over Sexual Misconduct Scandal

Lisa Baird has resigned as commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the league confirmed Friday. The NWSL is the top division of professional women’s soccer in the United States.

“The National Women’s Soccer League on Friday received and accepts the resignation of Lisa Baird as its commissioner,” said a statement posted on the NWSL Twitter account.

NWSL General Counsel Lisa Levine is also out, sources told ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle, confirming a report from The Athletic.

The decision follows a report that detailed allegations of coercion and sexual abuse by now-former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley, which covered multiple teams. Riley was fired from his position Thursday.

Riley’s removal was just the most recent in a series of firings of executives, including Richie Burke from Washington Spirt, Christy Holly from Racing Louisville and Farid Benstiti from OL Reign.

Especially damning to the NWSL board were the revelations that on multiple occasions the league failed to act on Riley’s alleged actions, thereby putting female players at risk. Earlier this year they took no action on an offer from Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim – two of Riley’s alleged victims – to investigate further instances in which Riley abused his position as technical director.

Baird’s response to an email from Farrelly – which was revealed in a tweet from Orlando Pride forward and the United States women’s national team, Alex Morgan – was to state in part that, “We went through our files and I can confirm that the initial complaint was investigated to a satisfactory conclusion. Unfortunately, I cannot share additional details. “

Earlier in the day, a decision had been made to postpone scheduled matches for this weekend, and Baird made a statement: “This week, like this season, it has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and myself. I take full responsibility for the role I have played in it I am sorry for the pain many are feeling.

“Recognizing that trauma, we have decided not to enter the fields this weekend in order to give everyone a space to reflect.”

Hours later, Baird was out of his job, sources said.

FIFA and the United States Soccer Federation (US Soccer) are also prepared to get involved with their own separate investigations. FIFA said in a statement that it is “extremely concerned” and is already investigating the allegations made by the players against Riley. FIFA added that it will be contacting US Soccer and the NWSL for “more information on the different security concerns and allegations of abuse that have been raised.”

In a statement, the USSF said it would “immediately launch” an independent investigation into the allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct.

“Player safety and respect is the ultimate responsibility of every person involved in this sport. That applies to every age, competition and skill level,” said US Soccer President Cindy Cone. “We owe it to every athlete, every fan and the entire football community to take every meaningful action in our hands to ensure that nothing like this happens again. We look forward to working together with all parties in this important endeavor.”

The Federation said in its statement that “it is currently working to hire an investigator with a lot of experience in cases of high-profile allegations of sexual misconduct at work. The investigator will be given full autonomy to follow the facts and evidence wherever it may lead. , and US Soccer agrees to share the results of the investigation when the investigation is concluded. “

Baird was appointed commissioner of the NWSL in February 2020, successor to Amanda Duffy. She was previously the director of marketing at New York Public Radio.

Levine joined the NWSL as General Counsel in June 2017. She previously held a similar position with US Soccer beginning in 2009.