Outcome of the Yates Report

Kaylee Donnelly, Senior Writer

The abuses within the National Women’s Soccer League were brought to light in 2021 as several women came forward with allegations towards their coaches or staff for committing emotional, verbal or sexual abuse against players.

Soon after a year-long investigation commenced, and the process resulted in five head coaches resigning out of 10 teams in the league, as well as the league commissioner, Lisa Baird, resigning. 

October 3 of this year saw the final results of the investigation with the release of the Yates Report. The report details several cases of both abuse and sexual misconduct, and how the league failed to properly protect their players and hold staff accountable in light of the controversies.

Merrit Paulson, the owner of the NWSL Portland Thorns and MLS Portland Timbers, is the most recent owner to step down from his CEO position with the team. The Thorns’ manager Paul Riley faced sexual misconduct allegations in 2015 by several former players.

Riley was reported to have invited two players into his apartment, goading them into performing sexual acts with each other in exchange for easier practices or less fitness. Riley was removed from the team in the controversy.

It wasn’t the end for his career, however, as owner Paulson referred quite positively for Riley to be manager of the Western New York Flash in 2016. He got the position. It was only when Riley was in the running for the U.S. Women’s National Team manager that Paulson suggested for Riley to withdraw, most likely to prevent the true nature of misconduct from coming to light. 

Although significantly talked about throughout the report, The Portland Thorns’were not the only team included. Racing Louisville’s coach Christy Holly was report to have engaged in sexual misconduct with his players during film sessions for every mistake they made in the game.

Chicago Red Stars manager, Rory Dames, was reported to have verbally and emotionally abused his players on and off the field. 

Interestingly enough, these three organizations, the Portland Thorns, Racing Louisville, and Chicago Red Stars did not cooperate fully with the investigations held for the Yates Report. 

Many of these teams have lost significant sponsorships. Fans have even written petitions to remove managers and owners from their positions of power. 

The Yates Report also called out the NWSL for their complacency and failure to protect the well-being of their players by prioritizing image, status, and for the legal problems regarding their managers.

The Report finished by recommending that the NWSL have individuals within their organizations who are responsible for player safety, as well as more open communication and feedback surveys with players that allow for reports or concerns of management staff. 

This issue is systemic, and exists in almost every level of soccer, even down to youth clubs. The culture of verbal and mental abuse in women’s soccer encourages fear and complacency of players and abuse of power by coaches.

Addressing it at the professional level is important, if not imperative to make changes throughout the sport. It will take the will of many across all age groups and levels of talent, to challenge the culture of power, fear, and silence in order to make significant change within the entirety of women’s soccer. 

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