NWSL ousts commish Lisa Baird amid misconduct allegations levelled at Paul Riley - sources

Sources confirmed that Lisa Baird, the commissioner of NWSL, and Lisa Levine, general counsel, were removed from their positions by ESPN.
The news was first reported by the Athletic. There has not been an announcement of a replacement for either position.

The league's Board of Directors made the decision. This follows a report detailing allegations of sexual coercion by former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley. It also covered multiple teams. On Thursday, Riley was fired.

Riley's dismissal was the latest in a string of managerial resignations, including Richie Burke, Christy Holly, Racing Louisville, and OL Reign’s Farid Benstiti.

The league's failure to act on Riley's allegations on multiple occasions was particularly troubling for its leadership. This led to the danger of players being put at risk. They failed to respond to Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly's offers to investigate additional instances in which Riley abuses his managerial position.

Baird's reply to Farrelly's email was to say in part, "We have reviewed our files and can confirm that the initial complaints were investigated to their conclusion." I am unable to share additional information.

The decision to postpone the weekend's games was made earlier in the day. Baird issued a statement saying: "This week and much of the season have been incredibly traumatizing for our players, staff, and I accept full responsibility for the part I played. I'm sorry for the pain that so many are experiencing.

"Recognizing the trauma of this weekend, we decided not to take to the field this weekend in order to allow everyone to reflect."

Sources said that Baird was fired hours later.

FIFA and U.S. Soccer may also be involved in separate investigations. FIFA stated in a statement that they are "deeply concerned" about the allegations against Riley made by players. FIFA stated that it would be reaching out the U.S Soccer and the NWSL to get more information on the safeguarding concerns and abuse allegations that have been raised.

The USSF stated in a statement that it would immediately launch an independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and abusive behavior.

Every person involved in the game has a primary responsibility for player safety and respect. Cindy Cone, U.S. Soccer president, stated that this is true for all ages, competitions and abilities. We owe it each and every soccer fan, as well as each player, to take every meaningful step possible to prevent this from happening again. We look forward to working with all parties on this important task."

In a statement, the Federation stated that it was currently seeking an investigator who has extensive experience investigating high-profile workplace misconduct allegations. The investigator will have full control over the investigation and can follow the evidence wherever it leads. U.S. Soccer is committed sharing the findings of the investigation once it's concluded.

In February 2020, Baird was appointed NWSL commissioner. She succeeds Amanda Duffy. She was previously chief marketing officer at New York Public Radio.

In June 2017, Levine was appointed general counsel to the NWSL. Levine joined the NWSL as general counsel in June 2017.