NWSL cancels matches after 'incredibly traumatic' week amid scrutiny over how league handled misconduct claims

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The National Women’s Soccer League canceled its weekend slate of matches Friday amid the controversy surrounding sexual misconduct allegations against a former coach and the criticism about how the league handled it.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird, who has taken the brunt of the scrutiny from some of soccer’s top superstars, called the week “incredibly traumatic.”

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird during a game between Portland Thorns FC and North Carolina Courage at Zions Bank Stadium on July 17, 2020, in Herriman, Utah.
(Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The Courage have fired Paul Riley effective immediately after allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. 
(AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File)

The NWSL was harshly criticized over the recent report. The NWSL Players Association demanded the league take action, including launching an independent investigation, suspending anyone in violation of the league’s anti-harassment policy regardless of when the complaint was made and disclosing how Riley was still hired within the league despite allegations.

Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Foudy were just some of the voices who spoke out against the NWSL.

“The league was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations. The league must accept responsibility for a process that failed to protect its own players from this abuse,” Morgan tweeted.

She also shared emails from Farrelly to Baird alleging “extremely inappropriate conduct” against Riley.

Rapinoe quote-tweeted Morgan.

Sinead Farrelly of Portland Thorns FC controls the ball against the Western New York Flash during the first half at Sahlen’s Stadium on July 29, 2015, in Rochester, New York. The Portland Thorns FC defeated the Western New York Flash 2-0.
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

“Never once during this whole time was the right person protected. Not Mana, not Sinead, not us not the players not the little girls who will become us not the big girls who already are us not any of US. This statement is beyond disrespectful,” she wrote.

Rapinoe added: “Men, protecting men, who are abusing women. I’ll say it again, men, protecting men, who are ABUSING WOMEN. Burn it all down. Let all their heads roll.”

Washington Spirit defender Rebecca Quinn (4) chases Houston Dash forward Meleana ‘Mana’ Shim (6) during the soccer match between the Washington Spirit and Houston Dash on May 27, 2018 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. 
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sauerbrunn issued a lengthy statement.

“To be where we are today is unacceptable,” she said. “The league and every club have to do better. At a minimum, the league and clubs should heed the NWSLPA’s calls from further investigations and policy updates, and at best it needs to audit, overhaul and publicly discuss its plans to enforce player safety guidelines at both the league and club level.”

It’s unclear whether the matches will be made up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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