United States captain Becky Sauerbrunn has called for a radical and sub-reform of elite domestic football in North America after An independent investigation found Emotional abuse and sexual misconduct have become systemic throughout the Women’s National Football League.
“It’s time for those in power to start holding accountable and making the players in this league feel safe,” the 37-year-old Portland Thorns defender said after she and her Team USA teammates arrived in London to prepare for Friday’s high-profile friendly against England. in Wembley. “The players are not doing well. We are terrified, exhausted and really angry.
“We are frustrated and frustrated. We are angry because it took a third party investigation and over 200 people who share their trauma to get to the point where we are now. The passion for the game has been robbed from players because of this abuse, we need to bring back that fun and accessibility to the game. Must That the CEOs who perpetuate this go away.”
Investigationcommissioned by the NFL and managed by former US Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, was launched in the wake of Last year’s allegations Against former Portland Thorns and North Carolina coach Paul Riley. Although Riley, who is English, denies the allegations, the report published by Yeats on Monday Found that verbal and emotional abuseIn addition, sexual misconduct was rampant across multiple teams.
Yates and her team spoke to about 200 players in the first division in North America and discovered that the problem extends far beyond the allegations made not only against Riley but with a handful of other high-profile coaches. Investigators found that such problems were exacerbated by the persistent failure of senior club and league officials to respond to warnings and take seriously the complaints of players and their parents. The report said three clubs – the Portland Thorns of Sauerbronn, Racing Louisville FC and the Chicago Stars – failed to fully cooperate with investigators.
Although US Soccer has pledged to implement a sweeping change, there is clearly a lot of damage to the overhaul. So much so that, during an emotional press conference, Macedonia-born coach Vlatko Andonovsky made it clear that he would understand if any of his players decided they weren’t in the right frame of mind to face England on Friday.
“It was a tough day and it was a very tough night, there are a lot of different emotions; the 46-year-old, who succeeded Jill Ellis in the US, said I am in disbelief and disgust, and saddened by the report, but I deeply respect the courage of the players who spoke out and participated In this report, a coach after the team won the World Cup 2019 in France. “Football is a game we all love and it should be a safe place no matter the level.
“Now that the report and its recommendations are out, our job is to make sure no one has to deal with this at any level in our sport or any sport. All we can do is make sure that it never happens again.”
For now, Andonovsky, whose team travel to Pamplona to face Spain in another friendly match on Tuesday as preparations begin for next year’s World Cup, concedes that long, festering wounds will take time to heal. “Playing is hard, it’s not easy for our players or staff,” he said. “We’ve all been affected in different ways, we all deal with this in different ways. Some people need time and space.
“It all means more than any game, if they don’t want to participate in a meeting, in training or in the game [against England] It’s up to them.”
At one point during a charged 45-minute press conference, in which the impending match against England in front of 80,000 people at Wembley seemed irrelevant, Sowerbronn was asked whether NWSL Players may be tempted to strike in protest of their treatment.
“I didn’t think about not playing,” she said. “I hope you don’t get to that point. A lot of us have been navigating this stuff for a very long time and you, you probably don’t split up, but you find a way to deal with it. We, as women, as players have faced a lot for a very long time, and unfortunately, I’d say you got used to it. that “.
She wondered, however, if similar problems in other countries, including England and Spain, were ignored. “Hopefully other leagues and other leagues will look 100% inward now,” she said. “Our goal is that no other player faces the same abuse. There is no better time to start than now to implement the measures we were late in introducing.”
Sauerbrunn is confident things will be very different for the next generation of young American players. “I hope that protocols are put in place that means parents and players feel comfortable reporting abuse and coaches get training on what is and is not prohibited,” she said. And that young players grow up without coaches demeaning or sexually harassing them.
“Perpetrators and owners who did not take their concerns seriously should go. A lot of trust has been broken. The things that have happened are unforgivable. Everyone should be 100% safe from abuse.
“In my opinion, every owner and CEO in American football who fails to protect players and hides behind the legal aspects should go away.”
Asked if she felt safe in the Portland Thorns, Sauerbrunn replied, perhaps explicitly: “It doesn’t matter if I feel safe, not everyone is 100% safe and that’s not good enough.”
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