Lisa Baird, who has come under fire for her handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a head coach, has resigned as commissioner of the top U.S. professional women’s soccer league.
Baird’s decision was announced in a statement posted Friday to the National Women’s Soccer League Twitter account, coming just hours after she said the NWSL had canceled this weekend’s games in the United States.
“The National Women’s Soccer League on Friday received and accepted the resignation of Lisa Baird as commissioner,” the league said.
The decision to remove Baird was made by the league’s board of directors, ESPN reported. No replacement has been announced.
Baird’s resignation comes a day after North Carolina Courage fired head coach Paul Riley over what the team called “very serious allegations of misconduct.”
“This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I have played,” Baird said before resigning on Friday.
“I am so sorry for the pain so many feel,” she added in a statement.
“We recognize that trauma and have decided not to take to the field this weekend to give everyone some space to think.”
Baird was appointed NWSL Commissioner in February 2020, succeeding Amanda Duffy.
Riley’s resignation came after The Athletic’s website detailed extensive sexual misconduct by the 58-year-old Englishman across multiple teams and leagues since 2010.
Riley was the second NWSL coach to be fired this week after the league terminated Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke’s contract following an investigation into allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.
US internationals Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have been among the players who have criticized the league’s handling of Riley’s allegations.
In short: protect your players. Do the right NWSL,” Morgan tweeted.
“Men who protect men, who abuse women. I’ll say it again, men, men protecting men, ABUSING WOMEN,” Rapinoe tweeted.
“Burn everything. Let all their heads roll.”
(1/3) The league was notified of these allegations multiple times and refused to investigate the allegations multiple times. The league must accept responsibility for any process that has failed to protect its players from this abuse. https://t.co/KDRBhhVBcT
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) September 30, 2021
According to The Athletic, players Sinead Farrelly and Meleana “Mana” Shim had made allegations of inappropriate behavior towards Riley.
Farrelly, who played for Riley on three different teams in different leagues, accused him of “sexual coercion” while coaching her at the Philadelphia Independence.
She said she was forced to have sex with Riley after going to his hotel room after a defeat in the 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer League final. Riley is said to have told her, “We’re taking this to our graves.”
In another incident during his tenure with the Portland Thorns, Farrelly and Shim said Riley forced them to kiss while in his apartment.
“This guy has a pattern,” Shim told The Athletic.
Morgan, who played under Riley at the same time, confirmed the players’ allegations and said she had tried to help them file a report with the league.
“The league was notified of these allegations multiple times and declined to investigate multiple times,” Morgan said. “The league must take responsibility for a process that has failed to protect its own players from this abuse.”
In a statement to The Athletic, Riley denied the wrongdoing and described the allegations as “completely false”.
“I’ve never had sex with, or sexual advances with, these players,” he said.
The league’s players’ union NWSLPA said on Twitter that “systemic abuse” is “plaguing the NWSL”.
“Words cannot adequately capture our anger, pain, sadness and disappointment,” the NWSLPA said.
On Thursday, Baird said the league is implementing a new anonymous reporting process for players and team and league personnel.
FIFA announced it had contacted both the NWSL and American football as part of a “preliminary investigation” it was conducting.
“FIFA is deeply concerned about the recent reports in the US from several players. Due to the seriousness and seriousness of the allegations made by players, we can confirm that FIFA’s judicial authorities are actively investigating the matter,” the world football organization said.
“FIFA’s position is clear: anyone found guilty of misconduct and abuse in football will be brought to justice, punished and removed from the game.”
US Soccer, which helped found the NWSL in 2012, said it was starting its own investigation.
“We take seriously our responsibility to thoroughly investigate the horrendous behavior that has been reported and to gain a full and honest understanding of the factors that made it possible, and the changes that need to be made to ensure it doesn’t happen again said the spokesman. league said.