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Red Stars co-owner Sarah Spain addresses the NWSL’s future

Chicago Red Stars players (Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Chicago Red Stars co-owner Sarah Spain talked about her role in the NWSL’s future on “The Takeline Show” earlier this week. After a season where five coaches left their teams amid accusations of abuse and players demanded more protections and rights, Spain said she wants to be a part of effecting change.

The podcast, hosted by Jason Concepcion and Renee Montgomery, was recorded on Monday, the same day multiple players accused former Red Stars head coach Rory Dames of emotional and verbal abuse in a Washington Post report. Dames resigned from his position late Sunday, a day after the Red Stars competed in the NWSL championship game.

“In the end I still feel like most people are doing it wrong,” Spain said. “And that became clear even in this league partway through this season. I mean, you look, our coach just resigned last night after 11 years. Only coach this team has had. There’s one coach left from the entire league that made it from the beginning of the season to the end.

“The turnover in the coaches, the scandals across a couple different teams, it’s just devastating because we know the power of sport when it’s good and we also know that it can be so enabling of the worst behaviors because there’s money in it, because there’s success in it, because there’s prestige in it. And so people will default toward protecting an institution, and to see it happen in a women’s league is so infuriating.”

Spain went on to say it’s imperative that those in positions of power within the NWSL do right by the players, including her as co-owner of the Chicago organization.

“What I’ve found is really hard is, there shouldn’t ever be an opposition, but according to what many people would look at, whether it’s lawyers or players’ association or whatever, I’m the man now,” she said. “But I don’t wanna be the man. Because I actually disagree with all the mans. I wanna do what the players want.”

While this past season has been “real tough,” Spain said she remains committed to creating a better league for the players.

“I wanna be a part of it. I don’t want the worst people to ruin the s–t we love, and if we give up on trying to change it from within, that’s what we’re letting happen. So you just gotta struggle through it,” she said.

“It’s just sad how money can corrupt. Or just how the people who have the most of it always have that kind of mindset — that’s why they were able to be so successful because they don’t give a s–t. So many people that have the most money and know how to handle things are not doing it the way I would.

“In women’s sports specifically, the answer is always, how do you balance investing with sustainability? Because you can’t just throw money at it and not think about whether you have enough, and the return on investment is enough to keep it going. So the balance is, how do I make sure we’re running this league the way I want, knowing that I don’t have the money to just throw at every problem? And also, how are we really having the tough conversations to kick the people out who are not wanting to do things right?”

On Tuesday, Spain reiterated her sentiments on Twitter. She also said that she is “not allowed to comment” on the Dames accusations when asked by someone on Twitter.

“Gotta dig in and push through the tough stuff to make it better,” Spain wrote. “Can’t let the worst of people ruin the things we love. We got this.”

You can listen to more of the conversation here.