Chicago Red Stars players call on owner to sell stake in team after NWSL probe

Players for the Chicago Red Stars have called on owner Arnim Whisler to sell his stake in the team following a disturbing report into misconduct in the National Women's Soccer League.

The players issued a joint statement Monday, a move that comes after the Red Stars' board of directors voted last week to remove Whisler as chairman and forbid him from participation in team operations.

"We are united with the Board of Directors in their decision to remove Whisler from the organization entirely and look forward to finding a new majority owner who can help us realize the full potential that we as players always knew existed for this club," the players' statement said.

The NWSL also announced Monday that it is terminating the contracts of Orlando Pride coach Amanda Cromwell and assistant Sam Greene following a league investigation into verbal abuse, favoritism and retaliation within the club. Cromwell and Greene had been on administrative leave since June.

Last week, former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates released the report into allegations of abuse in the NWSL. Yates and the law firm King & Spaulding were retained by U.S. Soccer to investigate those claims.

The investigation found emotional abuse and sexual misconduct are systemic in the league.

"In well over 200 interviews, we heard report after report of relentless, degrading tirades; manipulation that was about power, not improving performance; and retaliation against those who attempted to come forward," Yates wrote in her report. "Even more disturbing were the stories of sexual misconduct. Players described a pattern of sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and sexual touching, and coercive sexual intercourse."

The Yates report focused mainly on three teams - the Red Stars, the Portland Thorns and Racing Louisville - and how reports of inappropriate behavior were handled.

The Red Stars' head coach, Rory Dames, resigned following the 2021 season when the Washington Post published allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.

Dames was one of five NWSL coaches who either were fired or resigned last season amid allegations of misconduct.

North Carolina coach Paul Riley, who had also been coach of the Thorns, was accused in September 2021 of sexual coercion and harassment by two former players. Riley was fired and NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down in the aftermath.

Riley was coach of the Thorns in 2014 and 2015. After the team looked into complaints about his behavior, Riley's contract was not renewed and the Thorns reported the allegations to the NWSL's front office. But Portland did not publicly reveal the reasons for their decision and Riley went on to coach elsewhere in the league. Riley denies the allegations.

In response to the Yates report, Portland dismissed two top executives. Owner Merritt Paulson also said he would no longer take an active role in the day-to-day operations of the team.

Alaska Airlines, sponsor of the Thorns and the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, announced it was redirecting sponsorship funds for the quarter to the NWSL Players Association's "Support the Players Emergency Trust" fund and to youth sports in the Portland community.

Thorns forward Sophia Smith, who is training with the U.S. national team for a match Tuesday in Spain, said she hoped the fans would turn out to the club's playoff game Oct. 23. Her plea comes as some supporters have said they would not attend games.

"I think ultimately fans not showing up affects the players more than it affects anyone. Talking to some of my teammates, we would still really like people to show up and support us," Smith said. "Because at the end of the day, even through all of this, we still have to step on the field and perform and play soccer. I think our biggest thing would be, is we want to do that in front of our fans because that's one of the positive things that we have left in Portland and something that we always look forward to."

The NWSL and the players association are currently conducting their own investigation into misconduct in the league.

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