Jessica Berman has been appointed as the National Women’s Soccer League commissioner. This process took over five months and happened after a disorderly 2021 season, where five coaches were dismissed or resigned due to a plethora of accusations from players. She joins the NWSL with an impressive resume of previous experience within professional sports. Berman was the National Lacrosse League deputy commissioner and executive vice president of business affairs. She spent thirteen years with the NHL as vice president and deputy general counsel before taking on the role of vice president of community development, culture, and growth. She also held the title of executive director of the NHL Foundation.
The NWSL needed to find a new commissioner when former league commissioner, Lisa Baird, was criticized for her response, or lack thereof, to accusations made about former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley. Supposedly, the league had been fully aware of the sexual allegations and did not conduct an investigation. Players throughout the league criticized the NWSL and demanded that players have a role in finding a new league commissioner. The search committee included NWSL players Crystal Dunn, Kaylie Collins, Jane Campbell, Bri Visalli, Nicole Barnhart, Emily Menges, and Tori Huster.
Berman has made it clear that working with the players will be a top priority. She said:
“I’m honored to be the next commissioner of the NWSL and grateful to the owners for their confidence in me. Working on behalf of, and in partnership with, our players is my number one priority. Having been involved in professional sports for many years, I know how critically important a genuine partnership with players is for us all to be successful and continue to grow.”
With the NWSL in a more stable place, and with the inaugural seasons of Angel City and the San Diego Waves starting this March, it will be interesting to see how the league strives to continue to improve for their players. Taking this step of allowing players to be part of the search process to fill a high-ranking position is a hopeful sign of good things to come for NWSL players and this league.