Breaking: The Sally Yates investigation is in. The findings are ‘infuriating’

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Oct. 3, 2022

***CONTENT WARNING: This story will discuss a report that includes graphic details of sexual assault as well as sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, harassment and misconduct.***

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Hey guys, this is going to be a rather short Soccer Monday because I’m busy filing this story for The AP and doing additional reporting on this blockbuster report. But I wanted to give you a chance to read it and see a bit of the reaction.

U.S. Soccer’s independent investigation of the scandals that rocked the NWSL last year was released this morning. It was conducted by former Acting Attorney General for the United States, Sally Q. Yates and the law firm King & Spaulding.

Here’s a link for you to read it. *CONTENT WARNING FOR THIS LINK: It opens with a horrific recounting of Erin Simon’s description of abuse by former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly.

But man, this is far worse than I expected.

Here’s a recap: The investigation stemmed from allegations made by former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim. They accused coach Paul Riley of sexual coercion and harassment dating back a decade, details of which were published in September 2021 by The Athletic.

Here’s the story for reference.

Riley, who denied the allegations, was fired as head coach of the North Carolina Courage in the wake of the allegations, and NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down.

Yates’ investigation was comprehensive — it went far beyond just the Riley allegations. But it certainly looks really damning for the Thorns, Racing and the Chicago Red Stars. I’ve reached out to all the teams but I haven’t heard back yet.

Here’s Simons statement about the abuse she endured:

“There are too many athletes who still suffer in silence because they are scared that no one will help them or hear them. I know because that is how I felt. Through many difficult days, my faith alone sustained me and kept me going. I want to do everything in my power to ensure that no other player must experience what I did. This report allows our voices to finally be heard and is the first step toward achieving the respectful workplace we all deserve. It is my sincere hope that the pain we have all experienced and the change we have all brought about will be for the good of our league and this game we all deeply love.”

Here’s the statement from NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman:

“The NWSL is going to immediately review the Yates Report commissioned by U.S. Soccer. We greatly appreciate our players, staff and stakeholders’ cooperation with both investigations, especially during the ongoing season. We recognize the anxiety and mental strain that these pending investigations have caused and the trauma that many – including players and staff – are having to relive. We continue to admire their courage in coming forward to share their stories and influence all the changes necessary to keep moving our league forward. Establishing trust and confidence between the League, its players, and other key stakeholders remains a central focus for the NWSL, and we know that we must learn from and take responsibility for the painful lessons of the past in order to move the League into a better future. The findings and recommendations from both reports will be critical to informing and implementing systemic reform and ensuring that the NWSL is a league where players are supported, on and off the pitch, with safe and professional environments to train and compete.”

The USWNT Players’ Association also weighed in:

“All Players and employees deserve to work in an environment free of discrimination, harassment, and abusive conduct. The USWNTPA commends the courage of the survivors, current Players, and former Players who came forward to speak out against abusive practices that have become far too normalized in the NSWL and women’s soccer generally. At the same time, USWNTPA is dismayed that some NWSL clubs and USSF staff impeded the investigation; those who have not done so should fully cooperate with the ongoing NWSL/NWSLPA investigation immediately. Finally, although it should not have taken an independent investigator to bring light to these practices and to recommend common sense reforms, USWNTPA urges USSF to implement the recommendations immediately, and it stands ready to work with its partners at the NWSLPA, FIFPro, USSF, NWSL, and FIFA to prioritize Player safety across the sport.”

Here’s my story for the AP.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald reviewed ESPN’s look at the NWSL scandal, set to come out on Tuesday.

Ryan Clark also reviewed it for The Oregonian.

The San Diego Union Tribune makes a case for Casey Stoney as Coach of the Year.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan updates the status of the NWSL and the NWSLPA investigation.

Just Women’s Sports considers which NWSL players deserve a look by the national team.

Also from JWS: Naomi Girma leads the Rookie race.

The O’s Ryan Clark makes the case for Sophia Smith as MVP.

NWSL sponsor Voyager’s assets taken over by FTX.

Spain drops the 15 players who asked for better treatment from latest roster. This is not going well.

My story on the USWNT roster for England and Spain.

World Cup tix go on sale this month!

Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal on Angel City’s success.


Here’s a bit of what Cindy Parlow Cone said on a conference call with reporters:

Question: What What power does the Federation ultimately have to to force the league to do something if it you know about some of these owners not just in regards to not cooperating but to pass the actions.

Parlow Cone: Well, the only oversight that US Soccer has is sanctioning the league. But as far as the other things that you’ve mentioned, that falls under the NWSL. I guess I would say we have influence but not the power to force anything.

Question: Do the professional league standards and their rules on ownership allow US Soccer to intervene to push out. for example, Merritt Paulson and Arnom Whisler, both of whom are named in the report. I also want to want to ask you about Dan Flynn, who is helping organize organize the 2026 World Cup.

Parlow Cone: In terms of the owners that you mentioned, in professional standards, you know, that is something that we are going to have the new board committee take a really hard look at. We haven’t changed our professional standards in a long time and I think this is one thing that they’ll be tasked with is looking at that and seeing what we can do there. It also will involve cooperation from our pro council. You know, I think we all have the same goal in mind is to have a safe and as welcoming a sport as we possibly can. So I think when I when I say we need cooperation and collaboration among the membership, I really mean that, we need the pro council’s buy in on this as well.

I think Sally Yates did a great job with her report and laid it out. There are many people who are not necessarily still under US Soccer’s umbrella that have gone on to other places, whether in our sport or outside of our sport, and those entities will have to make the decision that they want to make, obviously discussions will continue and continue to be had.

Question: I think probably most of us were surprised to see your name come up in the report from an incident from 2013 with Mike Golub. Do you feel like the findings here are reflective of your own experiences in women’s soccer and in terms of was there anything that really surprised you? (Question from Meg Linehan.)

Parlow Cone: Other than the one instance that I had in Portland as a coach, I personally had never experienced any of the abuse or misconduct that was in the report. I found the full report challenging to read. Obviously this is near and dear to my heart.

I’ve been a part of this game all my life, from the youth all the way up to the professional level and an international level. So the women’s game is really important to me. And many of the players in this report, I know. Many of them I coached. I found the whole report shocking, as I did your initial report, as new things come up. I just found it really maddening that players had to go through this.

Question: In your mind does the report read in essence that the Timbers organization engaged in a cover up?

Parlow Cone: I don’t think it’s for me to interpret everything in that report right now. It’s a very large report over 350 pages, and I’ll be honest with you — this is very emotional for me and honestly, I’m having trouble absorbing everything in the report. I think it will take some time to really read through it and think about the actions and inactions of certain people. It will take us some time to really think about what needs to be done in terms of discipline. So, it’s not like I’ve had this report a long time. I am still dealing with it and trying to absorb all of it.

I think we need to allow a little bit more time to to judge and about what actually needs to happen. You bring up one specific organization and you know, I saw one of Meg’s comments and that this was bigger than one person, one organization. This is this is really systemic. And so the league is going to do what they need to do. US Soccer, we’re going to do what we need to do. But more broadly, we need to make sure that no team, no organization, no individual, no executive, is ever allowed to put the players in the position that they were put in.

Question: Obviously, there’s a lot of momentum for reform at the moment. But the NWSL is run by its owners. Do you detect that there is resistance or a lack of enthusiasm for some of these reforms?

Parlow Cone: That’s something we’re going to be working on. And let me be clear, the NWSL has been partners in this. I’ve talked to Jessica Berman quite a bit. And our goals are aligned. Everyone wants this score to be safer. No one wants any player or any executive or any person and participant to go through the things that these women have gone through. So I think our goals are aligned. It’s one thing to get a recommendation it’s another thing to work through the process of implementing the recommendations and that’s where we’ll need buy in across the landscape, not just in the pros, but in every level. That’s where why we’ve put together this board committee to look at it as well as the taskforce that will have broader membership input to make sure that not only that the changes are made that we but that also we implement them properly.

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Written by Annie Peterson