NWSL interim CEO: Progress made with players' demands following allegations

In protest of their NWSL match, members of Gotham FC and Washington Spirit join hands. (1:47).
Marla Messing, interim CEO of National Women's Soccer League, stated that the league had agreed in principle to fulfill the eight demands made by the NWSL Players Association.

The NWSLPA released a list with eight demands in response to reports that detailed instances of sexual coercion and verbal abuse by NWSL coaches. The demands included that all league personnel participate in the union's investigation into sexual misconduct and that the league be transparent about any other ongoing investigations. It also demanded inclusion in the selection process of the next commissioner.

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Messing spoke to journalists on Zoom just two days after assuming the interim CEO position. He stated that the league and union would collaborate on one investigation, instead of two separate inquiries, in order to reach agreement on the eight demands. Messing said that the investigation could take up to nine months.

Messing stated that he couldn't be happier about the news, as it allowed them to work together on the investigation. "I want you to know that the league retained Covington & Burling [law firm] to conduct an independent investigation and make recommendations and changes based on its findings. Covington was given full access to the facts and has the freedom to go where they lead. The NWSL's goal is to be the world's best women's soccer league. We must eliminate these issues and other unacceptable behavior to reach this goal.

Messing is a veteran of women's soccer and was the president and chief executive of the 1999 Women's World Cup. Messing said that she assumed the NWSL role in response to Cindy Parlow Cone, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She stated that she would act in the same way as a commissioner, managing the league office and interfacing with the board.

She said, "This is something that I care deeply about, so if I can help to be catalyst for change then that's something that matters a lot."

Messing did not say whether she wanted the job full-time, but said she preferred to concentrate on the actual issues.

She stated that there are many challenges and that her current mandate was to oversee investigations and ensure that institutional change takes place. "Frankly, that's what I'm focusing on," she added. I want to make the league a success for the players. Time will tell everything else.

Messing will be monitoring the sale of Washington Spirit. The Washington Post reported that there was a toxic work environment. The NWSL investigated and found violations to the league's antiharassment policy. The league barred the team from participating in governance matters. They were given 14 days to respond.

Messing stated that the league unilaterally extended deadline because Steve Baldwin, majority owner of the team, had declared his intent to sell it.

Messing stated, "We are very optimistic that a sale will occur."

The Spirit players have pushed for Y. Michele Kang, Spirit co-owner, to buy the club. Messing was asked if this would happen and said that it was up Baldwin to decide who he would sell his stake.

Messing stated, "Generally, I have the goal of having an owner in Washington, D.C. that the players love and respect and that the player feels has their best interest at heart." It's not clear if it's Michele, or someone else. It's Steve Baldwin's decision to sell the team. We will closely monitor the sale as the league has approved it.