New reports of alleged sexual misconduct have come to light in the wake of an investigation uncovering systemic emotional abuse and sexual misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League, U.S. Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone told CNN Friday.
Parlow Cone shared in separate interviews with New Day anchor Brianna Keilar and World Sport host Amanda Davies that at least three new cases have been reported to the USSF since the results of the probe were released on Monday. Parlow Cone disclosed that the cases have been forwarded to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a Congress-backed organization focused on preventing sexual, emotional and physical abuse in Olympic and Paralympic sports, and other authorities, but did not divulge any additional details during either interview.
“One of the great things to come out of this report is that it is encouraging more people to come forward,” Parlow Cone said before sharing her hope for next steps.
“I’m also hoping that people do feel safe now to come forward or are … learning about where to come forward to report this because this is so important.” she added. “We’re not going to be able to root it out unless more brave people come forward to tell us.”
Monday’s report detailed the findings of an independent investigation commissioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation and led by former acting U.S. attorney general Sally Q. Yates and the law firm King & Spalding. The probe focused on misconduct allegations involving three former coaches: Paul Riley, a former Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage coach, former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly and former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames. All three were among five NWSL coaches, along with OL Reign’s Farid Benstiti and the Spirit’s Richie Burke, who were fired in 2021 due to the allegations.
Parlow Cone, who called the findings “heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” was among the more than 200 interviews conducted during the investigation. The two-time Olympic gold medalist shared her story of experiencing an inappropriate comment by a team executive during her time as the manager of the Portland Thorns from 2012 to ’13; the Yates report discovered that the executive was former Thorns president of business Mike Golub, who was dismissed Wednesday.
In addition to Golub, Portland also relieved president of soccer and general manager Gavin Wilkinson that same day, a move that came less than a day after owner Merritt Paulson stepped down due to his involvement in enabling a toxic work environment. Additionally, the Chicago Red Stars announced hours later that chairman Arnim Whisler had been removed from his position as a result of the report..
“It just points to how systemic this was and how there were lack of processes in place and I’m really excited now that we have the recommendations,” Parlow Cone told CNN of the report.
She continued, “I’ve wanted to act for so long but I didn’t want to just do something just to say we were doing something. I wanted it to be meaningful and really have an impact and to change this culture.”
Parlow Cone’s announcement comes on the heels of a poignant gesture by the United States women’s national team and England ahead of their friendly match in London on Friday.
Players from both countries gathered in the center circle inside the iconic Wembley Stadium before the match wearing teal armbands in support of victims of sexual abuse and carrying a banner that read “PROTECT THE PLAYERS.” The players took a picture with the banner on the pitch while the lights along the stadium’s arch were lit in teal.
On Thursday, USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, one of several NWSL players who has spoken out since the investigation, demanded for change amid the stunning allegations. Rapinoe, who played with the Red Stars before Dames’s tenure and has been with OL Reign since 2013, called for the removal of Paulson and Whisler while speaking about the report during a news conference.
“I think it’s essential, obviously, those people are in positions that have responsibilities and they didn’t fulfill those responsibilities,” Rapinoe said, via Taylor Vincent of She Plays. “They didn’t protect the players at all. None of those people have shown that they deserve to be around this beautiful game and, have a right to be, because they can’t even do the basic responsibilities of their job.”
“I don’t think Merritt Paulson is fit to be the owner of that team. I don’t think Arnim is fit to be the owner of Chicago. We need to see those people gone.”
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