NWSL Players Association says league has met all eight demands

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The NWSL Players Association says the NWSL has met all eight of the demands the group issued in the wake of The Athletic’s story detailing allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse against Paul Riley.

“Today is a major step in protecting player safety moving forward, but this is just the beginning,” the NWSLPA wrote in a release on Friday.

According to the NWSLPA, the NWSL has agreed to a “transparent investigation” overseen by a five-person committee. Included on that committee will be two representatives from the NWSLPA, one from the NWSL, one club representative and one neutral party that is jointly selected.

The investigation is designed to “broadly review any instances of inappropriate conduct and seek to identify systemic failures,” with the objective of developing “evidence-based practices” that will help the league put player safety first.

In accordance with the original eight demands, every coach, general manager, representative on the Board of Governors and owner will voluntarily submit to the investigation. Those in positions of power in the league, both on teams and within league offices, will also be subject to investigation. Additionally, each of the NWSL’s 12 clubs will be investigated to determine whether any abuse “has occurred at any point in time.” Anyone who is in a position of power and under investigation will be forced to step back from their role under a new “Step Back Protocol,” as demanded by the NWSLPA.

Players will also have a hand in selecting the next commissioner of the league, as has been previously reported.

The NWSLPA commended interim CEO Marla Messing for her work in reaching a resolution. Messing was brought on following the resignation of Lisa Baird as commissioner.

“Agreeing to these demands for basic player protections is a step along that trail, but by no means is it the destination,” NWSLPA president Tori Huster said.

The league and the NWSLPA are continuing to work toward the league’s first collective bargaining agreement, with the hope of ratifying the deal in time for the 2022 season.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement to collaborate with the Players Association on the investigation announced by the NWSL on October 3rd,” the league released in a statement later Friday. “As a league, we are committed to making the systemic and cultural changes necessary to create a safe environment for our players and staff, and today’s agreement to proceed with a joint investigation is an important next step in that process.”