The NWSL brought the hammer down on the Washington Spirit on Tuesday, announcing that coach Richie Burke has been fired for cause after he was suspended for allegations of verbal and emotional abuse in August and that the club cannot participate in league governance matters for an unspecified length of time. The NWSL conducted a third-party investigation after the Washington Post detailed Burke's alleged inappropriate conduct last month and it expanded after more troubling allegations concerning owner Steven Baldwin came to the surface, shedding light on a toxic club culture.
"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 release read. "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 release continued to say that representatives from the Spirit will not be allowed to participate in league governance. The league has started a process where Washington needs to respond to the violation handed down to them within 14 days. The final investigative report will stay confidential to protect the confidentiality of those who spoke to investigators, per the release.
The initial report from the Post detailed that Burke "made racially insensitive jokes" toward Black players, and he was described as "unbelievably volatile" by former players. Four players left the team because of Burke's treatment, per the Post.
As things evolved to involve Baldwin, one of the club's co-owners, Y. Michele Kang, wrote a letter to investors imploring Baldwin to sell the team.
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