NWSL hands down punishment in Washington Spirit case

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The NWSL has given an update on its investigation into the Washington Spirit, conducted by an independent third party after the league learned of serious allegations concerning members of the club.

While the NWSL will keep the final report confidential to protect those who came forward with information, it has ruled that former Spirit head coach Richie Burke has been terminated for cause and will not be allowed to work with any NWSL players.

The NWSL’s board of governors has also determined that “the Spirit and its ownership have failed to act in the best interests of the League.” As a result, the Spirit are not allowed to participate in league governance matters, which means any board decision or meeting. The board is responsible for running and shaping the NWSL with commissioner Lisa Baird.

The NWSL initially opened the investigation in August after a report in the Washington Post detailed allegations of verbal abuse against Burke.

Washington Soccer Properties, LLC, which owns the Spirit, are also required to respond to the violation notice the board issued within 14 days. It is unclear what happens if they do not.

The conclusion of the investigation comes as majority owner and CEO Steve Baldwin has been pressured to sell his ownership stake in the team.

Back in August, the Post reported that Baldwin and co-owner Y. Michele Kang were fighting for control of the Spirit. Then, last Wednesday, the Post released a report in which multiple people accused the club of fostering a toxic working environment for women. Since then, both the Spirit Squadron and Kang have called on Baldwin to sell the team.