NWSL to meet players’ demands amid scandals

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The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA) announced that the NWSL has agreed to meet all of the demands put forth by the union in the wake of instances of verbal abuse and sexual coercion of players.

The announcement follows one made on Oct. 20 by the NWSL’s interim CEO Marla Messing in which she stated that the league had agreed to the union’s demands “in principle.”

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“Today is a major step in protecting player safety moving forward, but this is just the beginning,” the NWSLPA said on its Twitter account.

NWSLPA president Tori Huster added: “Each of these demands is seen by the players as one step closer to the goal of taking our league back.”

The NWSLPA first issued the demands on Oct. 6 that included the requirement that league personnel voluntarily take part in the union’s investigation of sexual misconduct, and that there be total transparency by the league in terms of other ongoing investigations. The NWSLPA also demanded that it be included in the process for selecting the next commissioner.

The NWSLPA said that the NWSL has agreed to a “transparent investigation” overseen by a five-person committee, including two representatives from the NWSLPA, one from the NWSL, one club representative and one jointly selected neutral party.

“The scope of the investigation will broadly review any instances of inappropriate conduct, and seek to identify systemic failures to protect player health and safety,” the NWSL said.

The NWSLPA added that negotiations on the first collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union are ongoing, with the aim to “rectify the systemic imbalance of power that has contributed to the multitude of problematic issues revealed this season.”

Overall, multiple NWSL managers have been fired for verbal abuse, including former OL Reign manager Farid Benstiti and former Washington Spirit manager Richie Burke. Former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley was fired earlier this month for allegedly engaging in the sexual coercion of players during his time as manager of the Portland Thorns.

When it was revealed that the various NWSL stakeholders were aware of the circumstances under which Riley was fired by the Thorns in 2015, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned.

“We are working in good faith to achieve agreements that empower and respect the players,” NWSL executive director Meghann Burke said.

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