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Lisa Baird: ‘I am proud of what I did’ to make NWSL better

(Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

Former NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird has spoken for the first time since resigning on Friday, saying she is “proud of what I did to make the league better.”

Baird said in a statement that, as commissioner, “I fought to enact initiatives that protected the women in our league,” including mandatory screening and background checks, protection plans for the safety of players younger than 18 years old, anti-harassment training and the implementation of new anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.

“I am invested in and care deeply about the NWSL and its players,” she continued. “The women who play our game deserve to be protected and I am proud of what I did to make the League better.”

Baird took over as commissioner in 2020, five years after the Portland Thorns first investigated allegations of misconduct made against then-coach Paul Riley. The Thorns severed ties with Riley after the 2015 season, which at the time was viewed as a result of the team’s poor on-field performances. Thorns owner Merritt Paulson indicated otherwise in a statement released Monday, saying the club had terminated Riley after finding him in violation of team policies and now realized they were mistaken for not being forthright about it then.

Baird’s resignation followed a bombshell report in The Athletic in which former players accused Riley of sexual coercion and emotional abuse. Riley was later fired by the North Carolina Courage and his coaching license was suspended. U.S. Soccer and FIFA have since opened investigations into the NWSL, where Riley is the fourth coach to face abuse allegations this season.

The league is set to resume play on Wednesday after not playing games over the weekend.