Washington Spirit head coach fired, banned from soccer league

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has fired a former head coach of the Washington Spirit following a harassment investigation.

Former head coach Richie Burke has been officially banned from coaching in the NWSL.

This followed an investigation into “serious allegations concerning the conduct of certain members of the Washington Spirit organization,” according to the NWSL.

Allegations of “verbal and emotional abuse” toward players were initially published by The Washington Post, which subsequently reported that the investigation had widened to include allegations of a toxic work culture for female employees.

Before the Post’s article’s publication, Burke had stepped down as head coach and was re-assigned to the front office due to “health concerns.” Following its release, team owner Steve Baldwin suspended Burke pending an investigation.

The league’s third-party investigators determined that the Washington Spirit and its ownership had not acted in the league’s best interest.

NWSL board members have barred representatives of the Washington Spirit from participating in “League governance matters,” effective immediately. The team’s ownership has 14 days to respond to the board’s violation notice.

The league made the decision to keep the final investigation report confidential to protect the confidentiality of those who spoke to investigators.

The announcement on Tuesday comes amid calls from the team’s official supporters’ group for controlling owner Steve Baldwin to sell his interest in the team. The group said it would curtail certain gameday traditions, including chants, until changes are made.

“We have seen enough. It is past time,” The Spirit Squadron said in a social media post. “Sell the team, Steve.”

The team also had to forfeit two recent games and pay fines for breaching the league’s coronavirus protocols.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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