Washington Spirit players call on owner to sell after he resigns
Washington Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin said he was stepping down immediately as the club’s CEO and managing partner, according to a team announcement on the team’s Twitter account.
Washington Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin said he was stepping down immediately as the club’s CEO and managing partner, according to an announcement on the team’s Twitter account.
In the statement, Baldwin, who bought the team in 2019, said he had spent the last few days thinking about the future of Spirit and “the vision I laid out just three years ago. “. In the end, he said he decided to quit at the request of the players and avoid becoming a distraction.
“While there is a range of opinions on how we got here and how to move forward, everyone – not more than I – is committed to improving the culture of the club, to eliminate distractions and refocus attention on the players and the pursuit of a championship, ”Baldwin wrote.
– Spirit of Washington (@WashSpirit) October 5, 2021
Baldwin said that Ben Olsen, who was recently hired as club president, will have authority over all team operations in the future. Baldwin has not said whether he will sell his controlling stake in the club.
“It was an extremely difficult decision for me,” said Baldwin. “I have invested everything in building this club and I care deeply about the players, the staff and the fan base.”
The club have come under fire following a Washington Post investigation revealing verbal and emotional abuse of players by former head coach Richie Burke. Baldwin suspends Burke after the story is published, and the National Women’s Soccer League have announced an investigation into Burke and allegations of team management fostering a toxic work environment for female employees.
The league concluded its investigation last week, firing and banning Burke “with cause” and barring Spirit representatives from participating in “league governance matters.”
Without setting out the findings of the investigation directly in his statement, Baldwin said he had “no doubt made mistakes” during his tenure, but his goal was to establish a professional experience for Spirit players.
Following her resignation, Spirit players, including team captain Andi Sullivan and the United States Women’s National Team defenseman Kelley O’Hara, tweeted a joint statement, saying that Baldwin must now sell the team.
The statement also said that while some of his work as an owner may have been sincere, “those days are over.”
“When we asked you to step down, to take a step back from management, we clearly meant that you should not retain any management control,” the statement read. “… You always have a firm grip as the majority owner over the decisions that need to be made at the club, even if they are taken from behind a veil. “
– Andi Sullivan (@sunshine_sully) October 5, 2021
Players ask Baldwin to sell to Y. Michelle Kang, the founder and CEO of healthcare consultancy provider Cognosante, which bought a minority share of the team last year. They asked him to sell to Kang at a “reasonable price” and to maintain his intention to return the profits from the sale to the Maryland Football Foundation.
Players join the official Spirit supporters group, the spirits squadron, who had asked Baldwin to sell his interest in the team. The group said they will cut back on some game day traditions, including chanting, until changes are made.
Baldwin’s resignation was also the latest response to a string of scandals that plagued the National Women’s Soccer League, 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.