Hours after Washington Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin announced his plan to resign from his roles as the CEO and managing partner, effective immediately, players took their fight public as they posted statements on their social media pages calling for him to sell the team to Y. Michele Kang.
“[Y]ou have always said you intended to hand the team over to female ownership," the players wrote in a unified statement. "That moment is now."
He shared the resignation in a letter, saying that he hopes "stepping back removes me as a distraction and allows the club to thrive." However, the players wrote that he did the opposite.
"Returning to our phones post training with yet another news story about our club is a distraction to our game preparation, our season and our careers," the statement read. "We realize some of your efforts may have been sincere, but that time is past."
Last week, Washington announced it had fired coach Richie Burke for cause after he was initially suspended for allegations of verbal and emotional abuse in August.
According to the Washington Post, NWSL's investigation into the coach expanded to allegations by several female employees of a toxic “old boys’ club” culture, which included a male executive using degrading nicknames for female players.
Burke was reportedly fired for harassment and creating a toxic work culture for female employees, per a Washington Post investigation. In the report, former players said Burke “made racially insensitive jokes” and described him as being “unbelievably volatile.”
Kang, the Spirit co-owner, wrote a letter on Sept. 27 to other team investors calling on Baldwin to step down and sell Kang his shares. “It is time for the Spirit to turn the page on this sad chapter in its history and bring in new leadership to chart a new path,” Kang wrote.
Players voiced in their unified statement that who they trust is Kang as she "continuously puts players' needs and interests first."
The Washington players revealed in their statement that they requested for Baldwin to "step back from management" but in a different way. Even in resigning from his roles, Baldwin "still has a firm grip as majority owner on the decisions that need to be made at the club even if they are made behind the veil."
In Baldwin's final act as managing partner, club president Ben Olsen gained full authority over all club operations. But the players "have no confidence in that management structure" and "don't have reason to believe that [Baldwin] won't be involved." According to the players, Olsen is "someone [Baldwin] hired who has virtually no experience in the role [Baldwin] left to him."
"Right now, as we look across the soccer landscape, packed with painful stories of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and team mismanagement, we, along with our peers are suffering," the statement read. "We want to stand in solidarity with them, rather than being dragged into what appears to us to be an ego-driven battle. We would like the focus to actually return to players."
The unified statement comes as the National Women's Soccer League deals with a large-scale scandal.
Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned following a damning report from The Athletic. The piece detailed former players' accusations of sexual coercion against ex-North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, who was fired on Thursday after the report was published. Additionally, former players said Riley made inappropriate comments about players' weight and sexual orientations, with allegations spanning three teams and three leagues, beginning in 2011.
Baird's resignation came hours after the NWSL called off this weekend's games, and the Players Association announced Tuesday morning that the league's players decided to return to competition starting Wednesday.