This morning, the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA) announced that the league had agreed to all eight demands put forth by the association last month. The demands—which were published and requested on Oct. 6—include the expansion of the NWSL’s investigation into abuse in the league, disclosure of all investigative reports, player input in the selection of the next commissioner, and permission to independently investigate abusive conduct in the league.
The demands were issued because of a series of damning reports that alleged emotional and physical abuse of NWSL players by coaches, and a failure to disclose and act on those allegations by the league. In just the past six months, multiple NWSL managers have been fired for abusive behavior including Farid Benstiti, previously of the OL Reign, and Richie Burke, former manager of the Washington Spirit. North Carolina coach Paul Riley was fired earlier this month after a damning report by the Athletic alleged that he had emotionally manipulated and sexually coerced his players while managing the Portland Thorns. Through that reporting, it was revealed that the league knew about these allegations and took no action. In the wake of these allegations, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned.
As Claire Watkins wrote for Defector earlier this month:
If the facts seem damning, it’s because they are. Men with histories of abuse were allowed to continue to have jobs in the NWSL where they could harm more players. The much-lauded anti-harassment policy that unseated Lahue, Holly, and Burke was reported in The Athletic’s article to actually have been created this year at the behest of the players, and was not a proactive measure from the league. The NWSL has been exposed for operating at an intersection of ineptitude and malice that has left players stuck in between needing the league to survive, and needing everything holding it up to collapse.
When the demands were released in early October, they included a signoff: “The reckoning has already begun,” it stated. “We will not be silent. We will be relentless in our pursuit of a league that deserves the players in it.” That lack of silence, the camaraderie and collective power of the players has, at least for now, paid off.
“Agreeing to these demands for basic player protections is a step along that trail, but by no means is it the destination,” Tori Huster, president of the NWSL Players Association, said in a press release. The Players Association is currently working to obtain its first collective bargaining agreement. Hopefully, this agreement for basic transparency and investigation into abusive behaviors is a signal that the league will try to create a future for this league that is healthier, more supportive, and more worthy of the athletes it employs.