Sydney Leroux urges action against NWSL leaders who ‘ignored us’

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Sydney Leroux is urging action against leaders in the NWSL who ignored claims of abuse following the bombshell investigation conducted by U.S. Soccer.

The investigation, which was initiated following a report in The Athletic that detailed allegations of abuse against former Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, details numerous claims of abuse as well as the covering up of abuse.

A number of executives, including former Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson, Thorns owner Merritt Paulson, Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler and former NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush, are named throughout the 172-page report as having had a hand in covering up allegations of abuse against former league coaches.

“It’s my belief that when serious allegations are brought to you and you ignore us… you should have absolutely nothing to do with this sport ever again. Period,” Leroux wrote.

“There is no damage control,” she added. “There is just damage.”

Other players, including Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly and Erin Simon, also have called for the removal of executives who were complicit in the abuse.

Leroux is a forward for Angel City FC. She played for the Orlando Pride for four years before being traded in June, and she also had stints with FC Kansas City and the Western New York Flash and played for the U.S. women’s national team.

Amanda Cromwell, who was named head coach of the Pride ahead of this season, was placed on leave in June amid an investigation into “alleged retaliation in violation of the NWSL Policy to Prevent and Eliminate Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying.”

Cromwell became the second coach to be placed on leave during the 2022 NWSL season. In April, Houston placed James Clarkson on leave at the recommendation of the NWSL and NWSLPA.

While Leroux did not play for any of the coaches named in the report, there have been other instances of abuse within the NWSL that were not investigated by Yates due to the scope of the investigation.

“It’s been almost a year to the day since we were retained, and in order for there to be both transparency and accountability, and to be able to put in place the changes that need to happen, this investigation needed to end,” Yates said in a press conference Monday.

More investigations are expected to follow, including an ongoing investigation already being conducted by the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association. U.S. Soccer also plans to follow up with Yates on other coaches and organizations that need to be investigated further.

“Our investigation over the past year has revealed a league in which abuse was systemic,” Yates continued. “Verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct occurred at multiple teams and was perpetuated by several coaches, and affected many players. We also found that these issues were not unique or new to the NWSL.”