The National women’s soccer league has called off games this weekend after a brutal week of negative headlines surrounding toxic environments and imbalances of power among clubs. The league announced the move on Friday.
“The National Women’s Soccer League announced today that given the gravity of the events of the last week, matches scheduled for this weekend will not occur,” the statement read.
The announcements come after a grave week for the league that began with the conclusion of investigations in to the Washington Spirit which lead to the termination of then head coach Richie Burke. Reporting later in the week detailed a power imbalance of sexual misconduct from North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley. Riley was later terminated based on the allegations made against him.
NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird provided the following statement in light of the cancellations.
“This week, and much of this season, has been incredibly traumatic for our players and staff, and I take full responsibility for the role I have played. I am so sorry for the pain so many are feeling. Recognizing that trauma, we have decided not to take the field this weekend to give everyone some space to reflect. Business as usual isn’t our concern right now. Our entire league has a great deal of healing to do, and our players deserve so much better. We have made this decision in collaboration with our players association and this pause will be the first step as we collectively work to transform the culture of this league, something that is long overdue.”
The Orlando Pride also released a statement after this firing of Riley and the allegations this week.
“The incidents as outlined in The Athletic today are deplorable and disgraceful. It is critical that our workplace is safe, respectful and inclusive, and that issues or complaints can be heard and supported without fear of retribution.
To be clear, harassment of any kind is not tolerated and the Orlando Pride will continue to be vigilant and partner with our players and community leaders to ensure that such behavior has no place in our society, let alone the NWSL.
We stand strongly with our players. We will continue to work steadfastly to ensure that tangible and meaningful policies, procedures, resources and accountability endure so that we may cultivate a positive and safe environment for all.”
Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan called for the NWSL to take action in a post on Twitter. She spoke to The Athletic in more detail:
“There definitely has been this shared idea that because two leagues have folded in the past, the NWSL is kind of the last hope for a women’s soccer league. Because of that, I feel like there’s this idea that we should be grateful for what we have and we shouldn’t raise important questions — or ask questions at all.”
The Orlando Pride were scheduled to travel to Chicago to face the Chicago Stars on Saturday night.