Less than 12 hours after Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was reportedly fired, new details are emerging about the conditions under which Burke was dismissed.
Following the initial release from the Spirit saying that Burke would be stepping aside due to health issues, The Athletic’s Meg Linehan reported that he was in fact fired.
Now, a report has surfaced in the Washington Post by Molly Hensley-Clancy, detailing numerous accounts of abuse toward players.
One player, Kaiya McCullough, went on the record detailing the abuse, saying that Burke made her hate soccer.
“I was 100 percent in a situation where I was being emotionally abused by Richie,” McCullough told the Washington Post. “He created this environment where I knew I wasn’t playing as well, because I was so, so scared to mess up and be yelled at. It crippled my performance, and it made me super anxious.”
McCullough has since left the Spirit due to the verbal and emotional abuse she was subjected to. According to the report, she is one of at least four players to have left the Spirit in the past two years because of Burke’s treatment.
Three former players said they believed the treatment had given them panic disorders.
McCullough also detailed instances of racial insensitivity, including the use of the n-word in front of her.
“It wasn’t directed at me, but it was still very deeply jarring, and very uncomfortable, to hear a White person say that,” McCullough said.
🖤 pic.twitter.com/MTCmmGiCGD— Kai (@hiyakaiya) August 11, 2021
The statements echo known patterns regarding Burke’s coaching style. Back in 2019, multiple players who were coached by Burke at D.C. United’s U-23 PDL squad in 2015 came forward detailing accounts of verbal abuse. Some said he continuously used homophobic slurs in both targeted attacks and in a joking manner.
The Spirit have since released a statement saying that Burke has been suspended pending an investigation.
“We take these allegations very seriously and are undertaking an immediate investigation,” says owner Steve Baldwin. “We, as a team, will not tolerate any situation for our players and staff that is less than professional. Our athletes, and all of those who support them, deserve the absolute best.”
Statement from Steve Baldwin— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) August 11, 2021
Statement from Steve Baldwin
A statement released by the NWSL echoed the sentiments expressed by the Spirit and confirmed an investigation has been opened.
“The NWSL and the Washington Spirit have initiated an investigation based on the NWSL’s Anti-Harassment policy for a Safe Work Environment,” they said. “The investigation is in response to a credible press report and Spirit Coach Richie Burke has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the adjudication process.”