The year 2021 has been nothing short of a rude awakening for the National Women’s Soccer League and the US Soccer Federation. This year alone, there have been five head coaches fired or forced to resign due to sexual misconduct, racist, and/or verbal abuse allegations. There have been so many allegations, in fact, it is enough to make your head spin. The hiring process of these coaches is questionable at best and the lack of accountability within the league is laughable. The NWSL desperately needs coaches and general managers who want these athletes to succeed if this league is to move forward in a positive direction and have a place in women’s sports.
The most recent abuse allegation is directed at Rory Dames, the former Chicago Red Stars head coach. There have been many allegations reported against Dames such as verbal attacks, inappropriate communication, and racially insensitive jokes made about players. What’s even more disturbing is that USWNT and former Chicago Red Stars player Christen Press reported concerns about Dames in 2014 to the NWSL, but no action was taken. Press then filed another complaint to US Soccer in 2018, the federation that oversees the NWSL, which did spark an investigation. It only took 4 years. Many other players also reported complaints about Dames, but in an unsurprising twist, there were no repercussions from US Soccer. Dames continued to coach for the Chicago Red Stars through the 2021 season until he was finally forced to resign.
How does the NWSL move forward to better the league and support these world-class athletes? US Soccer and the NWSL must ensure thorough investigations into all claims made by present and former players. The NWSL also needs to have full transparency and accountability for the coaches they hire, implementing a zero-tolerance policy for abusive and/or inappropriate behaviors. It is the responsibility of the US Soccer Federation, the NWSL and the individual clubs to protect their players, because these players deserve better.
We stand with the players who are fiercely advocating for change, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure a safe environment for the League’s players, staff, volunteers and fans. In conjunction with our players, the Chicago Red Stars several weeks ago initiated an independent review of player health and safety and the team’s culture and work environment. We intend to implement any recommendations in that review that will strengthen our ability to empower our players, to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, and to foster an environment of continual growth.– A statement from the Chicago Red Stars
Even in the midst of many allegations and negative publicity, the NWSL is seemingly trying to improve the culture of the league by hiring new head coaches such as Amanda Cromwell for the Orlando Pride. Cromwell is a former USWNT player, has coaching experience at both UCLA and UCF and is also a founding investor for the NWSL expansion team, Angel City FC.
As the NWSL shifts into hiring more women coaches, general managers, and adding female-led expansion teams like Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC in 2022, we can hope for a change in the culture surrounding the coaches, players, and the league overall. Needless to say, these athletes deserve an emotionally, mentally and physically safe environment that allows them to perform to the best of their abilities and leadership that is supportive of each player’s needs on and off the field.