NWSL penalizes Washington Spirit; coach Richie Burke fired with cause following investigation


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On Wednesday, the National Women’s Soccer League announced the conclusion of its investigation into the Washington Spirit and the team’s former head coach Richie Burke, relating to allegations of violations of the league’s anti-harassment policy. Upon the conclusion of an investigation by a third party, the league determined that several consequences, including the termination of Burke and a ban to the Washington Spirit on all league governance matters, were in order effective immediately. Additionally the team will have 14 days to respond to the violations.  

“Based on the investigation’s findings and the NWSL’s determination that the Washington Spirit head coach cannot work with any NWSL players, the Washington Spirit’s head coach has been terminated for cause,” the league stated in a release.

Reports about Burke surfaced on Aug. 10, after the Spirit initially released a now-deleted statement that Burke was stepping away from the team due to health concerns and would return to the team in a front-office role once healthy (you can find a full timeline of the multiple controversies surrounding the Washington Spirit here). After the reports of Burke creating a hostile and toxic environment, an investigation was launched in accordance to the league’s anti-harassment policy. 

“After considering the substance of the report, and taking into account prior actions of the Spirit, the NWSL’s board of governors has determined that the Spirit and its ownership have failed to act in the best interests of the League. The board has further concluded that representatives for the Washington Spirit will not be permitted to participate in League governance matters, effective immediately, and has initiated a process pursuant to which Washington Soccer Properties, LLC, must respond to the violation notice issued by the board within 14 days.”

The absence from league governance is “effective immediately” and means the Spirit no longer have a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making matters that affect the league, including decisions made with the NWSL board of directors and NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird. 

The now-concluded investigation comes after recent public outcry from Spirit fans and across the NWSL for current majority owner Steven Baldwin to sell the team.

Co-owner Y. Michele Kang recently penned a letter to Spirit fans and fellow co-owners calling for Baldwin to sell his shares to her and alleged that he was not honoring a prior agreement to sell. Kang also outlined her vision for the club and its future. The two-week timeline issued to the Spirit from the league to respond to the violations could mean that further changes are coming to the Washington Spirit franchise. 





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