Megan Rapinoe, one of the soccer world’s most famous stars, voiced her anger regarding the recent report unveiling years of sexual abuse and misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League under the US Soccer Federation.
Rapinoe, who plays as winger and captains OL Reign, called for accountability for those reported to be culpable in concealing the abuse — notably Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Chicago Red Stars owner Armin Whistler.
“I don’t think that Merritt Paulson is fit to be the owner of that team. I don’t think Arnim is fit to be the owner of Chicago,” the two-time World Cup winner told reporters at a press conference in London. “We need to see those people gone. So people who are fit and who will take care of the game and respect the game and help the game grow in the best way possible can replace them.”
In the wake of the report, both men have said they are stepping away from decision-making roles, though neither have indicated plans to sell their teams.
Piloted by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, the report consists of disturbing allegations gathered from over 200 interviews.
The independent investigation report comes about a year after The Athletic released a report accusing Paul Riley — who coached three NWSL franchises over eight seasons — of sexual coercion and misconduct, resulting in his termination from the North Carolina Courage. The Athletic cited allegations from players claiming that Riley used his authority to sexually harass players, which he denied.
Regarding those accused of misconduct in Yates’ report, Rapinoe told reporters: “Those people are in positions that have responsibilities and they didn’t fulfill those responsibilities. They didn’t protect the players at all.”
When asked about a global response to abuse claims, Rapinoe advocated for the league to put policies in place, “whether it’s from a FIFA level or from a confederations level” that would command accountability.
“From FIFA’s standpoint as the stewards of the game, I think they have a responsibility to do everything in their power to ensure every player is in a safe environment when they want to play.”
Rapinoe has a track record of wielding her platform to advocate for social issues. Earlier this year, she was the first soccer player to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her dedication to fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice and equal pay for women soccer players. She also criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, calling it “wildly out of touch.”
At the press conference, Rapinoe stressed that her years of experience with the sport have resulted in a lack of surprise from her and her team members when Yates’ report came out.
“As sick as this sounds, I feel like we are used to having to take on so much more than game planning and tactics,” she said. “We have an incredible ability to shoulder so much.”