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the American Federation confronted with a “systemic” practice

A practice “systemic” of sexual assault and other abuses in women’s football, of which several professional players, including some from the national team, and young people have been victims, is highlighted in a damning independent investigation for the American Federation, which promises measures , following the report published on Monday 3 October.

This investigation by former United States Attorney General Sally Yates and the law firm King & Spalding established “sexual comments, advances, unwanted touching and forced sex” within the North American League (NWSL) and even beyond, in structures dedicated to young players. These behaviors “have become systemic, encompassing multiple teams, coaches and victims”Yates wrote in his report, noting that “These abuses within the NWSL are actually rooted in a deeper culture of women’s football, which blurs the lines between coaches and players”.

The investigation was launched a year ago by the president of the Federation (USSF) Cindy Parlow Cone, in the wake of accusations of sexual assault by two players against England coach Paul Riley , then dismissed by the North Carolina Courage. Another coach, Richie Burke, who ran the Washington Spirit, was also sacked after an investigation for verbal abuse and moral harassment.

The 172-page report includes interviews with more than 200 NWSL players and details abuse by other coaches, manipulation, bullying and retaliation against players.

Lire : In the United States, the world of gymnastics put to the test by a scandal of sexual assaults

Victims also among young people

The investigation found that Rory Dames, who coached the Chicago Red Stars until his resignation in November 2021, was guilty of obscenities and verbal abuse. A sexualized work environment allowed him to have several inappropriate sexual relationships with female players.

Christy Holly coached Sky Blue in Harrison, New Jersey for half a season in 2016, before quitting after facing a non-consensual relationship and verbal abuse complaint. This did not prevent him from being hired last year by Racing Louisville, which in turn dismissed him for touching a player. “The verbal abuse and emotional abuse within the League, described by the players, is not just about the harshness of training”made a point of specifying Yates. “These players are not shy, fragile. They are among the best in the world, some play with the United States team. »

The investigation also established that “the abuse goes beyond the framework of the NWSL and seems to be rooted in youth structures, where a culture of tolerance in the face of verbal abuse has taken hold”. “We have been confronted with multiple reports of sexual abuse of young players”is added.

Two of the stars of Team USA, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, Olympic champions in 2012 and world champions in 2015 and 2019, were quick to denounce the inaction of the governing bodies of American women’s football, at the time of the Paul Riley affair. .

Read also The very political interventions of American footballer Megan Rapinoe

collective passivity

The investigation gives them reason, concluding that the clubs, responsible for the League and the Federation “failed to react appropriately on several occasions when confronted with complaints from players, with supporting evidence”. Et “they have not put in place the necessary measures to prevent and address these abuses, even though some leaders have privately acknowledged the need to protect the workplace”.

This collective passivity thus allowed a coach with abusive behavior to move from one club to another, preceded by positive references which concealed his misconduct. “Those at the NWSL and USSF who were in a position to correct the situation remained silent, overwhelm the investigators. And no one within the clubs, the league or the federation has demanded better from the coaches. »

“Now is the time for the governing bodies, which have let players down in the past, to listen to them and implement the meaningful reform they deserve. “The Federation is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players – at all levels – have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete”promised Cindy Parlow Cone, calling the findings of the investigation “heartbreaking and deeply disturbing”.

Among the first initiatives are the full-time hiring of a coordinator of SafeSport (an independent organization specially mandated to tackle the problem of verbal, physical, psychological and sexual violence in sport), the creation of a reporting unit online incident and case management, as well as the implementation of background checks for coaches, referees and other employees.

Read also the appeal of the French athletes: Faced with sexual violence in sport, French athletes call for “breaking the silence”

The World with AFP

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