U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone calls Yates report findings ‘first step’ – ESPN

U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone calls Yates report findings 'first step' - ESPN

U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said Monday that the findings of the Sally Q. Yates investigation are just a “first step” in changing an environment that has allowed the abuse of professional players to go unchecked for many years.

The findings of the USSF-commissioned Yates report, which were released Monday, revealed “a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — has become pervasive, spanning multiple teams, coaches and victims. Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, starting in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.”

While Cone praised the detail of the report, in which more than 200 witnesses were interviewed, she found the results of the investigation painful to read.

“The misconduct and abuse is completely inexcusable and has no place in football on or off the field,” Cone said. “I think this report makes it clear that we need to make systemic changes at every level of our game.

“This report is just the first step in looking at the whole football ecosystem in this country and what we need to do.”

The report centered on the conduct of three managers: former Sky Blue FC and Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly, former Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley and Rory Dames, formerly of the Chicago Red Stars.

– US Soccer investigation finds systemic abuse in NWSL

The investigation uncovered significant details about all three managers, but the findings surrounding Holly, in which he allegedly groped a Louisville player on multiple occasions, had previously gone unreported. He was sacked by the club in August 2021.

The report also revealed how Portland, Louisville and Chicago tried to obstruct or delay the work of investigators. Cone noted that the USSF is limited in what it can do to discipline owners or executives who have engaged in such behavior.

“A lot of those decisions are not just up to U.S. Soccer,” Cone said in response to whether any individuals would be punished. “I think the report shows that we have systemic problems beyond any one individual. Do I wish everyone had cooperated in the investigation? Of course I do. We would have a fuller picture of everything. We do have a committee that we” we installed there we will be tasked with looking at disciplinary actions, which I think are important.”

Cone noted that the only power the USSF has over the NWSL is sanctioning the league. Any further discipline will likely come from the NWSL.

“I guess I would say we have influence but not the power to force anything,” she said.

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The NWSL released a statement on Monday with a message of support for the league’s players who supported the Yates report, who are calling for change.

“We greatly appreciate the cooperation of our players, staff and stakeholders with both investigations, especially during the ongoing season,” the NWSL statement read. “We recognize the anguish and mental strain that these pending investigations have caused and the trauma that many — including players and staff — must relive. We continue to admire their courage in coming forward to share their stories and affect all the changes necessary for continue to move our league forward.”

Riley was fired for cause by the Thorns in 2015 following an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and coercion, although the manner of his departure was kept quiet. When asked specifically if the Thorns engaged in a cover-up regarding Riley’s firing, Cone avoided answering directly, citing the impact the report had on her given her history as a player as well as an NWSL manager.

“I don’t think it’s up to me to interpret everything in that report right now,” Cone said. “It’s a very large report, over 350 pages, and I’ll be honest with you, this is very emotional for me. And honestly, I’m having trouble absorbing everything in the report.

“I think it’s going to take some time to really read through it and think about the actions and actions of certain people and that and then we’re going to take some time to really think about what needs to be done in terms of discipline.”

The USSF is set to implement many reforms to allow for greater transparency and accountability. This includes better reporting on abusive coaches, having stricter licensing requirements, and a new commission chaired by former US national team player Danielle Slaton to ensure the reforms continue. Cone said she doesn’t anticipate any pushback from the NWSL regarding potential reforms.

“Our goals are aligned,” Cone said of the USSF and NWSL. “Everybody wants this sport to be safer. Nobody wants any player or any executive or any person and participant to go through the things that these women went through.”

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