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Washington Spirit, OL Reign commit to change in wake of US Soccer report

Michele Kang became the controlling owner of the Spirit in February 2022. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The Washington Spirit and OL Reign pledged their commitment to change within the NWSL in statements released Tuesday night in the wake of U.S. Soccer’s bombshell report on systemic abuse in the league.

Spirit owner Michele Kang, who acquired a controlling interest in the team in February, admitted to the team’s failings in her statement. Spirit coach Richie Burke was fired in 2021 after an investigation into abusive behavior, and his replacement Kris Ward was fired in August after a confrontation with a player during practice.

She wants her team’s off-the-field presence to match its players’ on-the-field prowess.

“While the Spirit organization clearly has fallen well short of this goal in the past, we are committed to doing everything necessary and working with the NWSL and NWSLPA to build the league the players deserve, and are proud to represent,” she said in her statement.

While U.S. Soccer concluded its investigation into abuse in the NWSL with the release of its findings Monday, the league and its players association are still in the midst of their own joint investigation.

OL Reign released its own statement Tuesday, joining Kang in commending those from the NWSL who shared their experiences of abuse.

The Seattle club also promised to “actively work to dismantle a system that is in direct opposition to our values,” noting: “Our players deserve nothing less.”

In its statement, OL Reign said it looks forward to the results of the NWSL and NWSLPA’s joint investigation. In the meantime, it encourages anyone with information related to abuse or misconduct in the league to reach out to investigators or to report through other channels.

The club, “in collaboration with the NWSL, is committed to putting in place the people, policies and processes to keep our players on and off the field,” per its statement.

Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler also released statements Tuesday, though theirs came after both were implicated by the U.S. Soccer report in efforts to cover up or diminish abuse by former Thorns coach Paul Riley and former Red Stars coach Rory Dames.

Both Paulson and Whisler have stepped away from their clubs until the NWSL and NWSLPA release the findings from their investigation. NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said the investigative team is working to conclude its report by the end of the year.