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Steve Baldwin airs Michele Kang grievances in email to Spirit investors

(Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

Washington Spirit co-owner Steve Baldwin sent out an email on Tuesday in which he laid out a number of accusations against fellow co-owner Michele Kang, as first reported by Sportico.

The two have been involved in a heated custody battle of the team for months, with Kang most recently turning the tables on Baldwin. The Athletic previously reported that Kang rallied other co-owners to her cause, acquiring the number of votes needed to approve a sale of the club to herself. Last Saturday, the NWSL’s Board of Governors said in a statement that they approved of Kang’s potential ownership of the club.

Baldwin opened his email Tuesday saying that he wanted to provide an update on the sale process. The 1,500-word email then lays out a series of questions to investors and “airs grievances against Kang.”

“I have made every attempt to take the high road throughout this ordeal,” writes Baldwin. “Other than now highlighting a very, very small set of facts of what Bill (Lynch, Spirit co-owner) and I dealt with from our ‘business partner,’ I haven’t pestered you, I haven’t waged a public campaign, I haven’t spoken to the media, and I haven’t leaked any of the interactions of this group (or anything else). The time has come where I can no longer remain silent.”

Some of the email reportedly becomes more personal, with Baldwin citing Kang’s political donations and federal fines levied against her company, Cognosante. He also cites charitable donations and events he set up to help “increase (Kang’s) standing in the community.”

He then asks the investors if any of Kang’s actions are “appropriate” for a board member, expressing particular concern for Kang’s donations to Florida governor Ron DeSantis. According to The Athletic, Kang has also made previous donations to a wide range of Democratic campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

“I readily admit that there are elements of this that are personal,” Baldwin writes. “We have hundreds of pages of documents and electronic communications for evidence that I would be happy to share and discuss with you.”

Kang declined to comment personally on the email. Instead her attorney, Beth Wilkinson, released a statement:

“We are disappointed to learn that Mr. Baldwin continues to repeat these false and inappropriate allegations. With the best interests of the team in mind and the vote by the NWSL Board of Governors last weekend, we are ready to move forward and focus on the next, exciting chapter for the Washington Spirit and women’s professional soccer.”

In the email, Baldwin assures investors that a vote will be taken “at the appropriate time.” Previously, Baldwin had said he would sell the club by the end of 2021.

Baldwin had been in serious sales talks with a group led by Todd Boehly and Jennifer Mackesy. Boehly reportedly withdrew his bid, saying his group had “underestimated the complexity of the situation” when it came to the sale.

In his email, Baldwin refutes the claims that Boehly’s group is no longer interested in purchasing the club.

“The decision about the future of the club will involve YOU,” he writes. “If your decision is solely about money, I will completely understand and respect your decision. If you honestly compare Michele with the Purchaser Group that has substantial sports experience and will be led by a remarkable woman (Mackesy) with significant soccer experience and integrity, and feel Michele is a superior owner, I will also completely understand and respect your decision.”

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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