Abuse ran rampant in women's pro soccer league, according to new report

San Diego Wave FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan plays the ball during an NWSL game.
(Image credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A new report published Monday documented extensive and "systemic" abuse in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) — the top professional women's league in the U.S.

The report was the culmination of an investigation into the NWSL led by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates. Per a copy of the report obtained by The New York Times, Yates describes a culture of abuse "rooted in a deeper culture in women's soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players."

According to the report, which was based on over 200 interviews, the abuse consisted of emotional, physical, and sexual manipulation from coaches. This included asking players about their sex lives and verbally harassing them, among other allegations.

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Yates' report was initiated in 2021 after former players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly told The Athletic that coach Paul Riley had abused them verbally and sexually for nearly a decade.

After Shim and Farrelly came forward, numerous other NWSL players spoke out against the culture of abuse in the league, including allegations published in The Washington Post against another coach, Rory Dames. Similar abuse allegations were soon linked to at least half of the coaches in the league.

In a response to Monday's report, the NWSL said that it would independently review the findings. U.S. Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone called the report "heartbreaking and deeply troubling."

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