Probe finds emotional abuse, sexual misconduct in NWSL were systemic
Probe, a new investigative reporting program run by ESPN, unveiled a new series Thursday — “The Silence Zone” — in which a panel of experts and former players, coaches and executives will investigate domestic abuse in the National Women’s Soccer League, which launched in 2017.
The NWSL, which is the third most popular women’s professional league in the world, has been embroiled for years in issues that pit its reputation against the league’s own members.
The most recent scandal involved an abuse case involving former Washington Spirit defender and former Women’s Professional Soccer player Alyssa Naeher, who was suspended two games for the conduct. Naeher, who made it to the 2018 NWSL draft after playing last season with Washington Spirit, has told reporters the abuse was mutual.
The NWSL, which signed two players from the United States under the age of 19, was created to be an independent league; the NWSL Players Association says members were offered jobs with NWSL teams to keep them in the league.
The silence zone in the series, which follows the investigators as they work, will explore why, despite a formal investigation finding two incidents of abuse and misconduct occurred within the league, both of the cases went unreported to police.
Probe will show players, team owners and other experts from the league and outside media for the series. It will air on ESPN in 2019.
Probe also will explore how that culture was broken, from how the league and the players association handled the matter to how the league can improve.
The first segment will focus on the events of Nov. 23, 2018, when an NWSL game was suspended because of an incident involving Naeher. It was the first in a series of investigations by the league to begin this month into why the alleged abuse happened and how it was handled.
“At the end of the day, this is a problem with the league, not the victims