As the NWSL scandal shows, traditional models of league building can produce the usual destructive outcomes – The Athletic


The National Women’s Soccer League is under reckoning after years of abuse by coaches and executives has come to light. Last week, The Athletic’s Meg Linehan shared the story of former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley’s story of inappropriate behavior with players, including forcing at least one player to have sex with him. A league whose players were largely at the forefront of the fight for equal pay, maternity rights, athletic activism and community engagement was also rightly screened for failing to protect its players through basic corporate structures. A league that has been touted as a marker of progress in women’s equality has seen these failures largely because of the men in charge.

“The NWSL as a concept differs from the NWSL as an institution,” Linehan told MSNBC last weekend. “Women’s sport is traditionally built by men and also tries to use the structures of men’s sport, and I think we are finally seeing that this leads to big problems.”

At the beginning of this season, the NWSL only had one female team owner. The majority of coaches are men and the three coaches fired for misconduct this season were all men. Until this season, the league did not have a comprehensive policy against sexual harassment and abuse, and many teams did not have adequate human resources departments to file complaints. A key point that was repeated in Linehan and others’ coverage of abuse in the NWSL focused on the lack of systems for players to file confidential complaints that would protect against retaliation.


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