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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.

America can't quit polarizing politicians

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New data finds that the nation's most polarizing politicians are often the ones that garner the most attention online.

Why it matters: Online engagement helps politicians build a bigger national profile and more fundraising power, incentivizing them be more outrageous, more polarizing and more divisive.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
16 mins ago - Science

It's time to take reproduction in space seriously

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Before humans can settle off-Earth, scientists need to figure out how — or even whether — people can reproduce in space.

Why it matters: Powerful figures in the space industry like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have dreams of a future where millions of people live in space, which would naturally require a self-sustaining population of humans somewhere other than Earth.