Report Details ‘Systemic’ Abuse of Players in Women’s Soccer

The report made a lengthy list of recommendations that it said should be adopted by U.S. Soccer, and in some cases the N.W.S.L., including making a public list of individuals suspended or barred by U.S. Soccer, meaningfully vetting coaches when licensing them, requiring investigations into accusations of abuse, making clear policies and rules around acceptable behavior and conduct, and hiring player safety officers, among other requirements.

The report also raises the question of whether some N.W.S.L. owners should be disciplined or forced to sell their teams, as it recommended the N.W.S.L. “determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate for any of these owners or team executives.”

Even with so much of the worst abuse publicly known, the Yates report is stunning in how meticulously it details how many powerful soccer officials were told about abuse and how little they did to investigate or stop it. Among those whose inaction is detailed are a former U.S. Soccer president; the organization’s former chief executive and women’s national team coach; and the leadership of the Portland Thorns, one of the N.W.S.L.’s most popular and best-supported teams.

“Teams, the league and the federation not only repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse, they also failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it,” Yates wrote. She added that “abusive coaches moved from team to team, laundered by press releases thanking them for their service,” while those with knowledge of their misconduct stayed silent.

The report said the sport does little to train athletes and coaches about harassment, retaliation and fraternization. It noted that “overwhelming” numbers of players, coaches and U.S. Soccer staff members remarked that “women players are conditioned to accept and respond to abusive coaching behaviors as youth players.”

While the report details complaints made about several coaches, it focuses its narrative on three: Paul Riley, Rory Dames and Christy Holly. The accusations against Riley, who last coached the North Carolina Courage, and Dames, who coached the Chicago Red Stars, have been well documented in news media reports. The accusations against Holly, who was abruptly dismissed as coach of Racing Louisville F.C. last year with little explanation, have not been aired publicly before.