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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

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2021 - Sports

COVID's grip tightens on sports world

The Canadiens played without fans last night. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

COVID continues to rip through professional sports at an alarming rate, prompting leagues around the world to update protocols, limit fan capacity, postpone games and consider temporary shutdowns.

State of play: As of Thursday evening, 60 NHL players had entered protocols in a four-day span and 52 NBA players had entered protocols in December.

Updated 55 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.