Oct 2, 2021 - Sports

NWSL commissioner resigns amid sexual harassment, abuse scandal

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird in Seoul, South Korea, in February 2018.
NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird in Seoul in February 2018. Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced Friday it accepted Commissioner Lisa Baird's resignation, which comes in the wake of widespread detailed accounts from players alleging sexual harassment and abuse.

Why it matters: The league is now without a commissioner in the midst of a growing crisis. It faces investigation and potential sanctions from both FIFA's judicial bodies and U.S. Soccer and was forced to cancel multiple games scheduled for this weekend.

Baird has been a focal point for criticism on the league's handling of the sexual harassment and abuse allegations.

  • Baird implied in a statement she had just learned of the accusations this week following an investigative report from The Athletic.
  • But emails later released by Orlando Pride and U.S. women's national team forward Alex Morgan showed that NWSL leadership was aware of at least some of the incidents for several months.

Driving the news: Multiple NWSL players, after years of silence, recently detailed cases of harassment and abuse, often at the hands of male coaches, Axios' Kendal Baker reports.

  • The North Carolina Courage fired coach Paul Riley on Thursday over allegations of sexual coercion, which span multiple teams and go back more than a decade.
  • The Washington Spirit this week also fired coach Richie Burke following a harassment investigation.

The big picture: The NWSL players' association, which is currently negotiating its first contract, called for an end to "systemic abuse plaguing the NWSL" and demanding safety and economic rights for the players.

Go deeper: FIFA opens investigation into NWSL allegations of abuse

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