At the start of the week, a independent investigation in the abuse of players in the National Women’s Soccer League revealed several failures by the NWSL and the United States Soccer Federation.
The investigationwhich was led by the former U.S Attorney General Sally Yates is just the latest in a long line of disgusting acts against professional female athletes, and the first question I had was “How can we prevent this from happening again?” Seriously?”
The answer I often read is “We need to change the culture around women’s sports because once these women are seen in a professional and sporting setting, these types of heinous acts will not continue.” While I totally agree with this assessment, it has also become clear that legitimate culture change will take years, if not decades. During this time, we have been able to see dozens of other victims of abuse, and that is dozens too many. It became a broken record. The victim speaks. Everyone expresses sympathy. Everyone agrees that changes need to be made, but is unwilling to make substantial change. A minor change is made and we hear nothing for a year or two, then another scandal arises. I believe we are headed in the right direction. That said, I wanted to determine the best short-term solution(s) to prevent sexual abuse in women’s sports.
I spoke with Julianna Kirschnerspeaker for the Masters Program in Communication Management at the University of Southern California, on the matter. Kirschner told Deadspin, “I share your frustration about this, because in the end, if this continues, it almost becomes white noise.
“The fact that scandals like this continue to occur is proof of a lack of transparency at all levels,” Kirschner continued. “What should happen is a closer look at some of the hiring practices that these teams are involved in. The three coaches who were identified in the Yates report were all men, and I’m not going to say a man can never coach a women’s team, that’s ridiculous. At the same time, there is a lack of diverse coaches.
Kirschner even cited professional men’s leagues as an example of a lack of diverse coaching hires. “The NFL doesn’t care about that at all. A lot of coaches are white, while a lot of players are Black. If this is an issue in the NFL, it goes to show that there are also many leagues that need to make similar changes. I feel like the NFL is one of the most egregious.
The NFL has made a surface-level effort to promote diverse coaching hires in recent years. The Rooney’s rule has been set up mandate NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for the open positions of Head Coach and General Manager. Meanwhile, the NFL began assigning teams compensatory draft picks for losing minority coaches or executives to promotions with other teams. Although these rules were designed to promote diversity, they have recently been exposed for subjecting minority coaches to simulate interviews.
No example illustrates this assertion better than the Trial of Brian Flores. Despite being a highly respected head coach who did a magnificent job with Miami, Flores was fired after three seasons.. He thought he had the opportunity to get the head coaching job with the New York Giants. However, prior to his scheduled interview, the Giants reportedly then selected Bills HC Brian Daboll. This made it clear that the Rooney Rule did not promote more diverse hires, but rather was a box for teams to check and congratulate each other after all.
“I like the Rooney Rule, or similar inclusivity measures, as a first step for other leagues. But the biggest thing that should happen, and something like that would have helped the National Women’s Soccer League tremendously, is a cultural change where people actually see the value of making these hires,” Kirschner said.
Kirschner admitted that instilling such a culture would take a long time and probably require transparency that we, as fans, cannot even currently imagine. Kirschner pointed out that there were far too many systemic issues in place that would constantly fight such change. It would take slow, methodical work to create a system that promotes transparency, abuse reporting, and player well-being, but the payoff would be worth it.
Kirschner offered another solution: to market women’s sports more aggressively. It’s no secret that women’s sports have struggled to garner the same fan and media enthusiasm as their male counterparts. Yet this lack of branding perpetuates a culture of allowing the wrong people to take advantage of the women involved.
“If there were more investment in broadcasting women’s sports and creating an opportunity to promote these sports, then there would be more opportunities for women’s sports to have the support of fans to call for ‘action some of the changes that need to happen,’ says Kirschner. “The main message of the Yates report is transparency, and if more people get involved in sport, the more people will call for transparency, and the easier it will be for people to see through blatant non-transparency.”
The fight to broadcast more women’s sports has been going on for some timenow, but there is no better argument than to prevent abuse in these sports. Giving these athletes a fan base or a larger platform to stand on would not only deter team staff and management from taking advantage of their players, but would also encourage more athletes to come forward because fear retaliation would not be as widespread with a large fanbase supporting the athletes. That said, the women’s sports market continues to be one of the hardest to break into, and until those fanbases are more established, this fear of reprisals for having manifested itself is still very present.
The fact that the public has been unaware of the sexual abuse that so many NWSL players have faced for years is proof that there is probably a lot more abuse in American women’s sports than we realize. don’t know.
“I really think these things are happening,” Kirschner said. “Especially in terms of how we define difficult coaching, you know. “We’re going to do things a certain way in order to get a certain result.” It is often seen in men’s sport, too. These things happen all the time at all levels. The more people recognize these things, derogatory comments or making fun of players as a way to get a specific response, the more this kind of abuse will start to go away. It’s not some kind of touch coaching or tough love. It is abuse. »
The ultimate goal is to end these types of abuse to occur in the first place. And TThat won’t happen until a cultural shift that values diversity is embraced across all of America’s professional sports leagues.