Portland Thorns FC defender Becky Sauerbrunn (4) in action against NJ/NY Gotham FC during the second half at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey October 1, 2022. — Reuters pic
WASHINGTON, Oct 5 — United States international captain Becky Sauerbrunn said Tuesday team owners and officials implicated in a bombshell report which detailed systemic sexual abuse and misconduct in US women’s football should be barred from the sport.
The 37-year-old two-time World Cup winner said players were “horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of a report published on Monday following a year-long investigation by former US attorney general Sally Yates.
Yates’ report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players — many of them members of US national teams — and detailed patterns of abuse from team coaches, manipulation and tirades.
“Every owner and executive and US football official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations should be gone,” Sauerbrunn said in a video-conference call from London, where the US women’s team is preparing for a friendly with England on Friday.
Merritt Paulson, the owner of Sauerbrunn’s club, the Portland Thorns, was accused in the Yates report along with other club officials of enabling misconduct by former Thorns manager Paul Riley.
Pressed on whether Paulson was included in the team owners she believes should be forced out of the NWSL, Sauerbrunn replied: “It includes everyone that has continued to fail the players time and time again, who didn’t take players concerns seriously, who didn’t pass on information correctly, who have not participated in investigations. All of them.”
In a separate development on Tuesday, Paulson, who is also the owner of the Portland Timbers Major League Football franchise, said he was removing himself from all Thorns-related decision making until the conclusion of a separate NWSL/NWSL Players Association investigation.
“I cannot apologise enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015,” Paulson said in a statement.
“I am truly sorry.”
Sauerbrunn meanwhile said players were “not doing well” following publication of the findings of the investigation, which was launched last year after reports in The Athletic and Washington Post lifted the lid on abuse in the NWSL.
“We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry,” said Sauerbrunn, a veteran of 208 internationals stretching back to 2008.
“We are angry that it took a third party investigation. We’re angry that it took an article in The Athletic and the Washington Post.
“We’re angry that it took over 200 people sharing their trauma to get to this point right now.
“For so long, this has always fallen on the players to demand change. And that is because the people in authority and decision making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us. And they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable.” — AFP