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An independent investigation into allegations of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct across professional women's soccer in the United States "has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches, and victims," a summary report reads.
On Monday, the U.S. Soccer Federation released its 319-page report, just over one year after it retained former U.S. acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates to conduct a probe into the National Women's Soccer League.
The investigation was prompted after numerous allegations of misconduct by coaches in 2021 were detailed by The Athletic, leading to the resignation of the NSWL's commissioner and general counsel and half of the league's coaches parted ways with their teams due to player complaints, according to the report.
"Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women's soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players," the report's executive summary reads. "The verbal and emotional abuse players describe in the NWSL is not merely 'tough' coaching."
The report begins with a previously undisclosed allegation against former Racing Louisville FC head coach Christy Holly, according to The Washington Post, who in April 2021 requested that player Erin Simon attend a game film session with him alone.
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"When she arrived, she recalls Holly opened his laptop and began the game film. He told her he was going to touch her 'for every pass [she] f----- up.' He did," the report reads. "Simon reports that he pushed his hands down her pants and up her shirt. She tried to tightly cross her legs and push him away, laughing to avoid angering him. The video ended, and she left. When her teammate picked her up to drive home, Simon broke down crying."
"Holly is not the only coach to have abused an NWSL player, and Erin Simon is not the only NWSL player to have been abused," the report adds.
Yates' investigation included more than 200 interviews with over 100 former and current NWSL and U.S. Women's National Team players, as well as a review of over 89,000 documents "most likely to be relevant," along with reports from a hotline phone number and email address that were set up for anonymous comments.
PEOPLE has reached out to the NWSL for comment.
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The report details allegations against Holly and two other coaches, Paul Riley and Rory Dames, though it notes that five of the league's 10 coaches left their jobs or were fired in 2021 after player accusations of misconduct.
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The report found that Riley "leveraged his position as Head Coach at the Philadelphia Independence" in the 2010s to coerce three players into sexual relationships, and that allegations against Riley were brought to the NSWL and U.S. Soccer "every year from 2015 through 2021," though much of his misconduct was not widely known until The Athletic's article published in Sept. 2021.
Dames, who worked as a coach with the Chicago Red Stars from the NWSL's founding until he resigned in Nov. 2021, never had a background check performed on him, the report states, and that he was "renowned for his tirades" against youth players at his Eclipse Select Soccer Club.
The report cited former youth players who recalled Dames yelling derogatory insults at them and told investigators that his "sexualized team environment — in which he spoke to players about foreplay, oral sex, and their sex lives — crossed the line to sexual relationships in multiple cases, though those relationships may have begun after the age of consent."
In 2021, the Red Stars retained a sports psychologist to interview each of its players anonymously on the team's environment and concluded that Dames "created 'a culture of fear' and was emotionally and verbally abusive."
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Despite finding that "verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct were widespread problems in women's soccer" prior to the NWSL's founding in 2012, U.S. Soccer and the NWSL did little to organize the new league with concerns for abuse in mind, the report reads. The league only instituted an anti-harassment policy in 2021 after players insisted upon it, and had only ever conducted two workplace harassment trainings prior to its institution.
Yates' report notes that U.S. Soccer holds only limited authority over the NWSL and its team's operations, but urges teams to "accurately disclose and explain misconduct to prevent other teams from hiring coaches and suggests U.S. Soccer have better engagement with its licensing process," according to The Washington Post.
The report also urges U.S. Soccer to require the NWSL to conduct "timely investigations" into misconduct allegations and to create player safety roles across team, league and federation levels.