December 14, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C., DECEMBER 14, 2022: The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA) and international law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP have announced the completion of a joint investigation alongside the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and its counsel Covington & Burling LLP into sexual, emotional, and other abuse and misconduct toward players in the country’s only professional women’s soccer league.
The Report of the NWSL and NWSLPA Joint Investigative Team, released today by Weil and Covington, details the observations, findings, and recommendations emanating from the investigation, conducted jointly by the two law firms.
For the past fourteen months, Weil has served as pro bono counsel to the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association on this matter. As the Joint Investigative Team, Weil and Covington conducted a thorough and independent joint investigation of all incidents of misconduct towards NWSL players by individuals in a position of power since the NWSL was founded in 2012, as well as systemic and cultural issues within the League that have contributed to misconduct. This was a first-of-its-kind process that gave players a voice at every step of the investigation.
Over the course of this investigation, the Joint Investigative Team reviewed over 200,000 documents and conducted over 200 interviews of current and former NWSL players, NWSLPA and the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) leadership, League leadership, club and League staff, and U.S. Soccer personnel.
The Joint Investigative Team found widespread misconduct directed at NWSL players. This includes findings that club staff in positions of power engaged in sexual abuse and manipulation of players, subjected players to emotional abuse, crossed professional boundaries with players, created volatile and manipulative working conditions, and engaged in retaliation against players who attempted to report or did report concerns. The Joint Investigative Team found that misconduct against players has occurred at the majority of NWSL clubs at various times from the earliest years of the League to the present.
The Joint Investigative Team also found that the underlying culture of the NWSL created fertile ground for misconduct to go unreported, and that U.S. Soccer, the NWSL, and its member clubs failed to appropriately develop policies and practices to prevent and eliminate misconduct, and then failed to respond appropriately to misconduct when they were alerted to it. The Report includes the Joint Investigative Team’s recommendations for systemic improvements.
“Today’s Report is the culmination of more than fourteen months of intensive investigation into sexual and emotional abuse by several NWSL head coaches and other individuals in a position of power,” said Meghann Burke, Executive Director of the NWSLPA. “While we cannot undo the harm that was done to so many players, we can now shine a light on long-hidden practices and take affirmative steps to ensure that no such behavior is tolerated again. We are grateful to Weil for its counsel throughout this process. We could not have accomplished this without Weil’s passionate commitment to doing this transformative work.”
Weil Complex Commercial Litigation partner Arianna Scavetti, who led the Weil team, said: “It has been a privilege for Weil to represent the NWSLPA throughout this investigation, which has given the players an unprecedented opportunity to speak out about the misconduct they have endured and to demand the safe and comfortable working environment they deserve. At every step, players told us that their primary goal was to ensure that the next generation of players has a better and safer league. We are proud to have played a role in that important effort, and we are so grateful to them for sharing their experiences.”
In addition to Ms. Scavetti, the Weil team included Complex Commercial Litigation practice Co-Head Drew Tulumello; White Collar Defense, Regulatory and Investigations Co-Head Sarah Coyne; and Complex Commercial Litigation associates Zach Schreiber and Katie Clemmons.