Steve Baldwin resigns as CEO of Washington Spirit from NWSL
Steve Baldwin resigned Tuesday as CEO and managing partner of the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League following the dismissal of coach Richie Burke following a harassment investigation.
Baldwin’s resignation was the latest response to a string of scandals that have plagued the NWSL, the top women’s professional football league in the United States. More recently, the league has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct involving longtime coach Paul Riley, a situation which prompted Commissioner Lisa Baird to step down on Friday.
Baldwin said in a statement that he decided to quit to avoid becoming a distraction. The team’s official fan group had asked Baldwin to sell his interest in the team, saying it would curtail some match day traditions, including chanting, until changes were made.
âIt was an extremely difficult decision for me,â said Baldwin. “I have definitely made mistakes, but my effort and focus has always been on building a professional experience for our players.”
Baldwin said team president Ben Olsen, the former DC United coach who had no previous experience in women’s football, now had full authority over the club’s operations. Baldwin has not said whether he will sell his controlling stake in the club.
Burke was fired last week after a detailed report from the Washington Post into verbal and emotional abuse by players and the NWSL has conducted a formal investigation. The Spirit were also sanctioned by the league.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that the players signed a letter to the club and the NWSL on Sunday night demanding that Baldwin separate from the squad. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as the letter was not made public.
The person also said that Spirit lost two godparents due to the controversy.
Spirit players released a public statement on Tuesday expressing dismay that Baldwin did not address their letter or his resignation to the team. The players also asked Baldwin to sell his controlling stake in the team to co-owner Y. Michele Kang.
“Right now, as we travel the landscape of football, filled with painful stories of sexual abuse, emotional abuse and team mismanagement, we and our peers are in pain,” the statement said. players. “We want to stand in solidarity with them rather than being drawn into what appears to be an ego battle.”
The league had canceled its scheduled games last weekend as players dealt with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, including sexual coercion, made by two former players against Riley.
Riley was terminated by Courage in response, and US Soccer suspended his license.
Riley’s former club, the Portland Thorns, did not renew their contract in 2015 following a team investigation following a player complaint.
Thorns owner Merritt Paulson, who also owns Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, issued an open letter to fans on Monday apologizing for the club’s lack of transparency in handling the case, and said Riley had been dismissed by the club.
“But then we made an opaque announcement about not renewing Riley’s contract instead of explicitly announcing his termination, guided by what we thought at the time was the right thing to do out of respect for life. private players, âPaulson wrote. “I deeply regret our role in what is clearly a systemic failure in professional women’s football.”
Thorns and Timbers fan groups released a joint statement on Tuesday evening saying they would no longer shop for concessions or merchandise at Providence Park in protest. Supporters have called for club general manager Gavin Wilkinson to be sacked.
The NWSL has opened an independent investigation into its handling of the charges against Riley. US Soccer and FIFA are also reviewing the reports. Riley did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment but denied the allegations.
In addition to Riley and Burke, OL coach Reign Farid Benstiti was asked to resign in July after inappropriate comments made during training. Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly was sacked last month for reasons that were not made public, and Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue was sacked for violating the anti-harassment policy of the league. She denied the allegations.
Former players Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim detailed Riley’s alleged harassment of them in an article published by The Athletic last week.
Farrelly and Shim, along with United States National Team star Alex Morgan, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday to discuss the matter.
âThe damage to my self-confidence and the way I saw myself, the way I approach life, it seeps into every part of your livelihood, and there’s a lot of loss that comes with it, and things I won’t get back, âFarrelly said on the show.