Washington Spirit owner Steve Baldwin denies ‘rage trading’ Mal Pugh and Rose Lavelle

HERRIMAN, UT - JUNE 28: Rose Lavelle #10 of Washington Spirit plays the ball defended by Kealia Watt #2 of Chicago Red Stars during a game between Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars at Zions Bank Stadium on June 28, 2020 in Herriman, Utah.

Steve Baldwin denied allegations of “rage trading” multiple Washington Spirit players, as first reported in the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, the NWSL handed down punishment after concluding its investigation into the Spirit. What began as an investigation into allegations of abuse by former head coach Richie Burke turned into a broader examination of the team’s culture.

Following the NWSL’s announcement, the Washington Post reported that multiple people interviewed as part of the investigation said that “Baldwin had ‘rage traded’ multiple Spirit players whom he perceived to have defied him or been disloyal.”

In an email to The Post, Baldwin identified the players as Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle.

In his email, Baldwin defended the trades, calling the allegations of rage trading “absurd.” The Spirit dealt Pugh to Sky Blue FC (now Gotham FC) in January 2020 and Lavelle to OL Reign in August.

“When our club makes a trade, it is because we believe the value we receive in a trade is greater than the value we gave up,” he wrote, adding that the decision to trade Lavelle was in relation to her signing with Manchester City.

“No club wakes up and says let’s trade Rose Lavelle,” he wrote.

Baldwin declined to comment on other allegations and other findings within the investigation.

It’s the first time Baldwin has spoken out since the league opened its investigation, one day before the Post reported on the allegations of abuse against Burke. The coach was fired following publication of the Post’s story.

Since then, the Post has also reported on Baldwin and co-owner Y. Michele Kang fighting for control of the team. Last Wednesday, the Post released a report in which multiple people accused the club of fostering a toxic working environment for women. Since then, Baldwin has faced increased calls to sell the team, including from Kang.

Baldwin hasn’t given any indication that he plans to sell the team or step down as CEO.

As a result of the league’s investigation, the Spirit have been suspended from participating in league governance matters indefinitely. They also have two weeks to respond to the investigation, at which time the league’s board could take further action.