Former acting United States Attorney General Sally Yates has been appointed by US Soccer to lead an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
US Soccer said in a statement that Yates would look into allegations of “abusive behaviour and sexual misconduct” that have rocked the league following reporting by The Athletic.
Yates, who served as deputy Attorney General for two years after being chosen for the role by Barack Obama, “will be given full autonomy, access and the necessary resources to follow the facts and evidence wherever they may lead”, US Soccer said.
The investigation led by the 61-year-old, now with the King & Spalding LLP firm, will begin immediately, the national governing body added.
The NWSL has appointed a new Executive Committee following the resignation of commissioner and former United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee chief marketing officer Lisa Baird, who quit in the wake of The Athletic report detailing allegations of sexual coercion by coach Paul Riley.
“On behalf of the entire league, we are heartbroken for what far too many players have had to endure in order to simply play the game they love, and we are so incredibly sorry,” said a statement from Executive Committee members Amanda Duffy, Angie Long and Sophie Sauvage.
The league has hired the Covington & Burling law firm, which investigated claims of bullying within the World Anti-Doping Agency, to conduct its own independent probe.
Riley was sacked as head coach of the North Carolina Courage and suspended by US Soccer following The Athletic report.
FIFA has also said it will investigate the allegations, which led to the NWSL suspending all of its matches this past weekend.
Former NWSL players Sinead Farrelly and Meleana Shim spoke out against the 58-year-old to The Athletic in a story that has sent shockwaves through the sport.
Farrelly claims that the harassment began in 2011 when she played for Philadelphia Independence of the Women’s Professional Soccer League and continued when she joined the NWSL’s Portland Thorns in 2014, both managed by Riley.
She says that she was “under his control” and was coerced into having sex with Riley on multiple occasions.
In 2015, Riley was under investigation for inappropriate conduct.
Farrelly claims he “made harassing comments about my personal relationships and sexual orientation” which he was not scrutinised for.
Riley was removed as head coach of the Portland Thorns following the investigation but was later announced as the manager of the North Carolina Courage.
He denies wrongdoing.
US national women’s team star Alex Morgan said on Twitter that the NWSL “was informed of these allegations multiple times and refused multiple times to investigate the allegations”.
Fan groups at Major League Soccer side the Portland Timbers, who share an owner, general manager and stadium with the Thorns, flew banners in support of the NWSL players at their match against Inter Miami yesterday.
“Believe, support and protect NWSL players,” read one banner, while another simply stated: “You knew.”