KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three days after the bombshell Yates Report laid bare serious claims of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse within NWSL, which it deemed systemic, NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman made her first public appearance since the report's publication Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri.
Berman was on hand as the Kansas City Current celebrated breaking ground on a new riverfront stadium, but she also addressed how the NWSL will chart a course forward after years of misconduct within its ranks.
“This is my top priority now,” said Berman, who was hired in March. “Addressing the systemic issues from a culture perspective that this league has had is my No. 1 priority, it’s the reason the board hired me as the commissioner.”
Former commissioner Lisa Baird resigned as the allegations surfaced publicly in October 2021.
The NWSL formed an advisory board, which included Current co-owner Angie Long, to identify Baird’s replacement, which recommended a former employment lawyer.
“I spent most of my career doing workplace investigations and addressing systemic issues through policy reform, so this is my sweet spot,” Berman said Thursday in Berkley Riverfront Park.
Berman said the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association have formed a joint investigative team, which is reviewing the Yates Report and taking it even further.
“That team is continuing to investigate,” Berman said. “They are uncovering new facts, speaking to new witnesses, reviewing new documents and it is our priority and the players association’s priority to not stop the investigation and not interfere with the investigation in any way.
“Finding the truth and uncovering the full story is the absolute priority of the players. At the end of the day, this is really all about the players. It’s not about what other people want to have happen, and we’re taking our signals directly from them.”
Among the issues cited in the Yates Report, which was commissioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation, was a lack of cooperation from several NWSL teams and ownership groups.
“That’s one of the benefits of us having this transition period after the Yates Report,” Berman said. “Any teams or individuals who either didn’t provide the documents that were requested or didn’t offer themselves to be interviewed by the Yates team can now participate in our investigation that is being commissioned jointly with the union.”
The hope is that the league as a whole will be motivated to address the issues the Yates Report brought to light and the NWSL and its players will have more leverage to compel cooperation in the quest to find solutions.
“Reading that report was horrifying, and I want it never to be the case that any players experience in the league while I am here,” Berman said. “We’re going to work tirelessly with the players association to make sure that we not only address misconduct but also that we institute those systemic changes that ensure we create the kind of culture that our players deserve, where they feel safe and supported.”
The Current’s ownership — which includes Angie Long’s husband, Chris Long, and Brittany Mahomes, the wife of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes — issued a statement Tuesday after the Yates Report was released that emphasized its goal to be a “player-first organization” in all aspects.
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KC Current President Allison Howard reiterated club ownership’s position before Thursday’s groundbreaking.
“Our commitment is to have a player-first club,” Howard said. “That rings true downstairs for the technical staff and upstairs for the business staff, where I sit. Everybody in every department upstairs knows that our job is to support Cami (General Manager Camille Levin Ashton), Coach Matt (Potter) and everybody else that’s down there to make sure that the players have everything that they need.”
No allegations were levied against the Current, which made the upcoming NWSL playoffs in their second season, or any of its personnel.
Berman didn’t give a timeline of when the NWSL/NWSLPA’s joint report would be completed, but she expected it to go beyond the Yates Report.
“We already are receiving communications that that is happening, and our independent investigators are instructed specifically to hunt down every face and leave no stone unturned in the process,” she said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now.”