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U.S. Soccer vows improved vetting, training, transparency after Yates report

Former U.S. attorney general Sally Q. Yates's recommendations will be adopted by U.S. Soccer. (Steven Senne/AP)
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The U.S. Soccer Federation on Monday announced that it will implement all 12 recommendations set forth last year by former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates in her report on pervasive abuse and misconduct at the highest tiers of women’s professional soccer. At the heart of the recommendations is what the USSF has dubbed its “Safe Soccer” system, which will create a more thorough vetting system for coaches and officials while also implementing a mechanism for annual training and verification.

“Immediately after we released Sally Q. Yates’s independent report, our Board and staff got to work on plans to implement the report’s recommendations and advance safeguarding initiatives that build a culture of participant-centered safety and trust across our sport,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement. “Thanks to the many athletes and experts who jumped into the critical work of protecting everyone in our game, we have made substantial progress. While we have much more work ahead, I believe the steps we’re sharing today will make our game significantly safer and I look forward to seeing it through.”

Yates’s report, released in October, found that U.S. soccer officials and team executives with the National Women’s Soccer League repeatedly failed to heed warnings or punish coaches who abused players. The year-long probe, spurred by reports in The Washington Post and the Athletic of widespread allegations of abuse against coaches in the NWSL, found numerous allegations of sexual misconduct had been lodged against some of the game’s top coaches, including some that previously had not been made public. The coaches also leaned on vicious tactics, Yates found, including “relentless, degrading tirades; manipulation that was about power, not improving performance; and retaliation against those who attempted to come forward.”

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“Players described a pattern of sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and sexual touching, and coercive sexual intercourse,” Yates wrote in her report.

Yates’s recommendations include accurate disclosure of misconduct to ensure that abusive coaches do not move from team to team; meaningful vetting of coaches; timely investigations by the NWSL into allegations of abuse and immediate disclosure of the results of those investigations; standard codes of conduct for everyone involved in U.S. Soccer; annual training for NWSL coaches and players on U.S. Soccer policies governing verbal and emotional abuse, sexual misconduct, harassment and retaliation; a mandate that each team have a player safety officer; and the creation of a system in which NWSL officials can listen to player feedback.

“On behalf of the entire Board, we look forward to seeing the new ‘Safe Soccer’ framework transform our sport by providing increased transparency and visibility into who is participating in our game so we can better protect players,” said Danielle Slaton, chair of U.S. Soccer’s Yates Implementation Committee and a former U.S. women’s national team member. “We will work closely with our membership to ensure that the rollout of ‘Safe Soccer’ is smooth, practical and sustainable, and will continue to work with the Participant Safety Taskforce to implement additional safeguarding measures across the soccer ecosystem.”