Today, the U.S. Soccer Federation released an update that included details on their plans to implement 12 recommendations that came out of the Sally Yates investigation into abuse allegations in the NWSL. When those allegations put the NWSL in the public eye for the wrong reasons, U.S. Soccer hired King & Spaulding to investigate any wrongdoings in North America's top women’s professional league.
Former U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, led the investigation, which concluded with a 319-page report and twelve recommendations for the Federation to clean up the sport on all levels. From Yates's findings through player interviews concerning the work environment of the NWSL, the federation is creating the Safe Soccer Program.
The Safe Soccer Program is aimed to help spot “bad actors” before they have a chance to participate in U.S. Soccer. The program will set new standards and procedures to determine if someone is eligible to work within the soccer boundaries of the United States.
“Immediately after we released Sally Yates’s independent report, our Board and staff got to work on plans to implement the report’s recommendations and advance safeguarding initiatives that build a culture of participant-centered safety and trust across our sport,” said U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone in a statement.
Danielle Slaton, the Chair of the Yates implementation committee, said Safe Soccer is to ensure players of all ages are protected from abuse in the future. “We will work closely with our membership to ensure that the rollout of “Safe Soccer” is smooth, practical and sustainable, and will continue to work with the Participant Safety Taskforce to implement additional safeguarding measures across the soccer ecosystem,” Slaton added.
The Yates Implementation Committee of the Board of Directors worked with U.S. Soccer’s Pro League Standards Taskforce to propose amendments to U.S. Soccer’s Pro League Standards, which govern all professional soccer leagues affiliated with U.S. Soccer, including Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the North American Soccer League (NASL) and United Soccer League (USL). Some of the most notable recommendations from Yates include:
- Teams should be required to accurately disclose misconduct to the NWSL and USSF to ensure that abusive coaches do not move from team to team.
- USSF should require the NWSL to conduct timely investigations into allegations of abuse, impose appropriate discipline, and immediately disseminate investigation outcomes.
- USSF should require the NWSL to conduct annual training for players and coaches on applicable policies governing verbal and emotional abuse, sexual misconduct, harassment, and retaliation.
- USSF, the NWSL, and teams should each designate an individual within their organizations who is responsible for player safety.
- The Federation should determine the most effective structural mechanism, whether through an existing board committee, special committee or task force, to evaluate and implement recommendations and to consider further reforms in support of player safety.
- USSF should require the NWSL to implement a system to solicit and act on player feedback annually.
- Teams, the NWSL and USSF should not rely exclusively on SafeSport to keep players safe and should implement safety measures where necessary to protect players in the USSF landscape.
Due to Yates's findings, we may see more heads hit the floor and some legacies tarnished in the days following. Rory Dames, Paul Riley, and Christy Holly are the three culprits used to highlight the abuse being overlooked in the NWSL. Do you think the Safe Soccer Program will greatly impact U.S. Soccer?