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Former NWSL head Lisa Baird denies ignoring Paul Riley abuse allegations

Lisa Baird repeatedly has said she followed up on claims of abuse against Riley. (Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

Former NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird is standing by her actions during her time as commissioner and denying claims that she ignored allegations of misconduct.

Repeatedly, Baird has made claims that she followed up on claims of abuse, including in an interview with ESPN reporter Lisa Salters as part of the upcoming E60 documentary, “Truth Be Told: The Fight for Women’s Professional Soccer.”

“If something was brought to me, I followed up on it,” Baird says in the documentary, making her first public comments since resigning from her position last year.

“I could second-guess myself a lot. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this,” Baird continued when asked if she would have done things differently. “I’m sure there are things that I could do differently. I think, right now, I made the best decisions I could with the information I had at the time.”

But new details, which came to light in US Soccer’s investigation into the league’s abuses, are shining new light into Baird’s time as commissioner. The independent investigation, led by Sally Q. Yates, said that Baird was repeatedly warned about Riley but made significant attempts to keep him coaching in the league.

“In the spring of 2021, the NWSL received a series of four complaints about Riley in quick succession,” the report said. “The League largely ignored the complaints, and instead, weeks before the publication of The Athletic article, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird was actively trying to keep Riley from resigning over his anger about the postseason schedule.”

Additionally, the report writes that Baird was made aware of the 2015 investigation into Riley. However, in her interview with Salters, Baird says that the article in The Athletic was the “first time that I heard an accusation of sexual abuse.”

However, Baird reportedly refused to look deeper into the allegations against Riley despite being asked by former Thorns player Sinead Farrelly, who made the request in April 2021. Fellow Thorns player Mana Shim also brought her concerns to Baird in March 2021, and was told that the complaint against Riley in 2015 “was investigated to conclusion.”

Following the report in The Athletic, Baird issued a statement saying she was “shocked and disgusted” by the new allegations.

However, San Diego Wave and former Portland Thorns forward Alex Morgan contradicted that statement at the time, tweeting screenshots of an email exchange that showcased Baird’s response to Shim’s concerns.

In the upcoming ESPN documentary, Morgan called her response to the report “a lie.”

“I wanted so deeply for Lisa Baird to just stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t do enough,’ but she didn’t,” Morgan says. “She said she was shocked and disgusted, and that was surprising because that was a lie.”

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