In the wake of a bombshell report detailing a former women’s soccer coach’s alleged sexual abuse of players and the National Women’s Soccer League’s subsequent mishandling of those allegations, Lisa Baird, who has served as the league’s commissioner since 2020, has resigned.
“This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I have played,” Baird said in a statement released on Friday shortly before the NWSL announced that it had accepted her resignation, per NBC News. “I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling.”
“Our entire league has a great deal of healing to do, and our players deserve so much better,” she continued. “We have made this decision in collaboration with our players association and this pause will be the first step as we collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue.”
As The Athletic reported on Thursday, former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley allegedly coerced midfielder Sinead Farrelly into having sex with him on multiple occasions. He is also said to have brought Farrelly and midfielder Mana Shim back to his apartment after a night of drinking in 2015 where he reportedly pressured them to kiss each other for his enjoyment. In a written statement to the publication, Riley denied the allegations against him.
“The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations,” tweeted Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan on Thursday. In the replies to her own tweet, Morgan shared screenshots of an email exchange between herself and Baird from earlier this year in which Baird dismisses Morgan’s concerns about Riley’s alleged abuse of players. “The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse.”
Following the report, the NWSL announced that it has five games scheduled for this weekend. Additionally, the United States Soccer Federation has said that it plans to launch an independent investigation into claims of abuse and sexual misconduct in the league, ESPN reports. Former national women’s soccer team captain Christie Pearce has also stated that she will defer her induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame until next year, which was supposed to happen tonight, out of respect for her fellow athletes.