Soccer star Megan Rapinoe urges accountability after investigation finds systemic abuse and misconduct in women’s game
By David Close, CNN
US Women’s National Team (USWNT) star Megan Rapinoe reiterated that women soccer players are angry and exhausted following an independent investigation report which found systemic abuse and misconduct within women’s professional soccer.
Released on Monday, the report — led by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates — was based on more than 200 interviews and reveals the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) under the US Soccer Federation (USSF) failed to provide a safe environment for players.
“As sick as this sounds, I feel like we are used to having to take on so much more than game planning and tactics. I feel like we have an incredible ability to shoulder so much,” Rapinoe told reporters in London on Thursday.
Rapinoe, who plays professionally for the NWSL’s OL Reign, was asked about her thoughts on accountability repercussions following the report’s release.
“Those people are in positions that have responsibilities and they didn’t fulfill those responsibilities. They didn’t protect the players at all amidst year, after year, after year. I feel like it’s impossible to overstate that every single year someone said something about multiple coaches in the league about multiple different environments,” she said.
“None of those people have shown they deserve to be around this beautiful game.”
Rapinoe said she draws on years of experience on how she deals with uncomfortable topics such as unequal pay, inequality and systemic abuse.
When asked about a global response to abuse claims, Rapinoe replied: “Having some kind of policy in place — there is absolutely nothing to hold anyone accountable to it. It’s difficult to hold people accountable even when there is something in place.
“So whether it’s from a FIFA level or from a confederations level, at least having those policies in place or having hotlines that people can report to or reporting systems that have some teeth in them and are actually real and not just gonna be just thrown to the wayside is really important.
“From FIFA’s standpoint as the stewards of the game, I think they have a responsibility to do everything in their power to ensure every player is in a safe environment when they want to play.”
The report comes about a year after the league was thrown into chaos following a report by The Athletic detailing allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct against Paul Riley, who coached three NWSL franchises over eight seasons.
He was fired by the North Carolina Courage after The Athletic cited players on the record alleging that for years, Riley used his influence and power to sexually harass players and, in one incident, coerce a player into having sex with him.
Riley denied the accusations in the Athletic report. CNN has not been able to reach Riley for comment.
In the wake of the Athletic report, then-NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned and the league called off all matches scheduled for that weekend.
By the end of the year, half of the league’s teams had parted ways with their coaches after player complaints, the Yates report notes.
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