NWSL agrees to eight demands from players association: ‘This is only the beginning to transforming the NWSL’


The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association announced that the league has met all eight demands issued earlier in the month in wake of sexual coercion allegations surrounding then-Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley and the firing of Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke following allegations of verbal and emotional abuse. 

As a result, Lisa Baird resigned as commissioner after approximately 19 months on the job and the league is now in the process of searching for a new commissioner as it grapples with a reckoning on player safety.

The eight-point list of demands was issued to the league during the sixth minute of games on Oct. 6, after players participated in demonstrations on the pitch in a one-minute stoppage of play at the center circle. Players linked arms in unity to recognize Sinead Farrelly, Mana Shim, and Kaiya McCullough and their stories.

“Each of these demands is seen by the players as one set closer to the goals of taking our league back,” said NWSLPA president Tori Huster.

As player demonstrations were taking place, the NWSLPA issued the following demands:

  1. Every coach, general manager, representative on the Board of Governors, and owner voluntarily submit to the Players Association’s independent investigation into abusive conduct. They may notify executive director Meghann Burke of their agreement with this demand by the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.
  2. The scope of NWSL’s investigation announced on Sunday evening, Oct. 4, 2021 be expanded to include an investigation of each of the 12 NWSL Clubs represented on the Board of Governors to determine whether any abuse, whether presently known or unknown, has occurred at any point in time.
  3. The scope of NWSL’s investigation further be expanded to determine whether any league office staff, NWSL club, or person in a position of power within NWSL neglected to investigate concerns of abuse raised by any player or staff member at any point in time.
  4. NWSL adopt an immediate “Step Back Protocol” whereby any person in a position of power (e.g. owner, representative on the Board of Governors, general manager, or management supervisor) at the time that a club either hired or separated from employment a coach who was, is, or will be under investigation for abuse be suspended from any governance or oversight role within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effectively immediately. For any club that took swift action to protect players upon the discovery of facts that were not previously known to the club, the immediate disclosure to the Players Association of the circumstances and the policies or practices implemented to prevent the same from happening again may be grounds to restore that person to their position quickly, with the Players Association’s agreement.
  5. NWSL immediately agree to disclose all investigative reports referenced in its statement of Oct. 3, 2021.
  6. NWSL immediately agree to disclose to the Players Association any and all findings, conclusions, and reports that are obtained pursuant to their statement of Oct. 3, 2021, including but not limited to the reopening of the 2015 Paul Riley investigation.
  7. NWSL agrees to cooperate with the Players Association’s own independent investigation by written email to executive director Meghann Burke by the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.
  8. NWSL agrees that representatives of the Players Association have an opportunity to meet with potential commissioner candidates and have a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the selection of the next commissioner

The union announced that an investigation committee has been created, safety protocols memorialized, and further changes are being made to ensure players voices are being heard. Furthermore, “the investigation will broadly review any instances of inappropriate conduct, and see to identify systemic failures to protect player health and safety.”

Marla Messing was recently named interim CEO by the league, and has been working in collaboration with the players association on their demands, including having a seat at the table during the hiring process of the next NWSL commissioner — as the players also continue work on what would be their first ever collective bargaining agreement. 

The league has agreed to a transparent investigation that will be overseen by a five-person committee with two representatives from the NWSLPA, one from the league, one club representative and one jointly selected neutral party. 

“Throughout the history of our sport it is the players who have blazed the trail of change. It is players who have blazed the trail of change,” said NWSL executive director Meghann Burke. “We are working in good faith to achieve agreements that empower and respect the players.”

The NWSLPA statement concluded with a promise to NWSL fans, saying “we will not relent in our commitment to leave this game better than we found it.”





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