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Here’s How The USSF President Responded To USWNT Players’ Damning Letter

U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone wrote a letter back to the USWNT players who demanded answers over recent sexual abuse allegations.

USWNT stars have demanded answers. On Thursday, they got some, but they probably won’t appease immediate concerns over systemic abuse in women’s soccer. 

It’s been a turbulent week in women’s soccer in the U.S. A report published Tuesday by the Washington Post detailed stunning allegations of verbal, physical and sexual abuse committed by former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames. Nine USWNT stars reacted by sending a letter to U.S. Soccer Federation presidential candidates Cindy Parlow Cone (the current president) and Carlos Cordeiro (the disgraced former president). 

On Thursday, Parlow Cone and Chicago Red Stars founder and owner Arnim Whisler responded with letters aimed at the USWNT players and the women’s soccer world in general. There were no satisfying resolutions, but the USWNT players will at least know their voices have been heard. As of publishing, Cordeiro has yet to provide a response. 

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The letters came in response to a strongly worded letter by USWNT stars Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Sam Mewis, Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn in response to the Molly Hensley-Clancy Washington Post article. The USWNT letter was also a response to the flood of men’s soccer coaches leaving the NWSL under accusations of having emotionally abused and sexually coerced players. 

Here’s the letter from Parlow Cone. (Full text is available at the bottom if you don’t want to read via Twitter.)

“I absolutely share your concern about the allegations of unconscionable abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in both the professional league and at the youth level,” Parlow Cone wrote. “The Washington Post article was the first that U.S. Soccer learned of the latest allegations concerning sexual abuse by Rory Dames. As I’ve said to many of you personally, I am incredibly angered and saddened by the multiple reports that have come out about these horrific situations too many girls and women have had to endure within our sport.

“As the President of U.S. Soccer, ensuring that soccer players at all levels in this country can participate in soccer in a safe environment is of the utmost importance for me personally and for the Federation.

“To ensure that future, we hired former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into these allegations. I want to reiterate that she and her team have been given full autonomy and access to all the necessary resources they need to follow the facts and evidence wherever they lead. Once again, we are committed to full transparency and will make the findings public.”

Parlow Cone expressed empathy for the alleged abused players. As a former USWNT player herself, she’s experienced sexism in sports firsthand. The USSF president, who took over after Cordeiro resigned, leaned heavily on the ongoing Sally Yates investigation. The bulk of the letter focused on how the Yates investigation would provide the path forward, though USWNT players will read that and wonder why nothing has yet been made public.  

Whisler said the last few months have been a time for contrition and reflection.

“My family and I have been supporting women’s soccer since the founding of the Chicago Red Stars in 2007,” the Red Stars owner wrote. “From the outset our goal has been to build a sustainable league for women to achieve their professional dreams in a positive and healthy environment. We have dedicated our hearts, time and resources to accomplishing those goals, but in spite of this commitment, we have not yet reached all of our goals.

“I have spoken with many players and the experiences they have told me about are unacceptable. I am further heartbroken this week after learning about the allegations from former youth players that involved the Red Stars former coach at the youth club he founded. There is no place for abuse of any kind in soccer — or anywhere. 

“The past few months have been a time of deep humility, contrition, and reflection for me. I have always strived to ensure that everyone hired in our environment is of high character and shares our positive values. But we have not always succeeded. For that, I am sorry.”

(Whisler’s letter can also be found in full at the bottom of this article.)

Whisler pointed to steps that have been made to ensure nothing like this happens again and admitted the work isn’t done. 

Both Parlow Cone and Whisler focused on what’s being done to improve the future of women’s soccer, which is great. However, both mostly ignored the strongest criticisms from the USWNT, namely the lack of prior action and lack of accountability for previous bad actors. 

The biggest takeaway is there is an ongoing, public dialogue. No longer are these issues of systemic abuse in women’s soccer being left to fester under a culture of silence, though it is likely there are still more cases on unreported abuses. 

As Whisler conceded, there is still much work to do. The WoSo world eagerly awaits the findings of the Yates investigation, with hopes those who committed wrongdoings — be it cruelties like sexual coercion or looking the other way to allow such abuses — are held accountable. Until then, the USWNT will continue to push for answers to ensure everyone who wants to play the beautiful game, from the youth levels to World Cup winners, are able to do so safely. 

USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone Response To USWNT Letter

February 10, 2022
Christen Press
Crystal Dunn
Tobin Heath
Carli Lloyd
Samantha Mewis
Alex Morgan
Kelley O’Hara
Megan Rapinoe
Becky Sauerbrunn
I absolutely share your concern about the allegations of unconscionable abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in both the professional league and at the youth level. The Washington Post article was the first that U.S. Soccer learned of the latest allegations concerning sexual abuse by Rory Dames. As I’ve said to many of you personally, I am incredibly angered and saddened by the multiple reports that have come out about these horrific situations too many girls and women have had to endure within our sport.
As the President of U.S. Soccer, ensuring that soccer players at all levels in this country can participate in soccer in a safe environment is of the utmost importance for me personally and for the Federation.
To ensure that future, we hired former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into these allegations. I want to reiterate that she and her team have been given full autonomy and access to all the necessary resources they need to follow the facts and evidence wherever they lead. Once again, we are committed to full transparency and will make the findings public.
This incredibly important work by Ms. Yates and her team is ongoing and like you we eagerly await the results of the investigation. As we’ve said in the past, Ms. Yates has committed to sharing any findings that U.S. Soccer should take immediate action on. Again, we will share absolutely everything. We also understand to be of value, such an investigation will take time and is highly dependent on participation and cooperation of many parties within soccer. We encourage anyone who has any information relevant to these issues to speak directly with Ms. Yates and her team so that she can complete her investigation in a timely manner. That’s the best path to ensure she has a complete picture of the facts and then we can make the changes that are needed to make the sport safe for our entire soccer community – especially the youngest players.
We are incredibly thankful to all the players who have spoken up during the past few months. Your voices have been immeasurable in shining a light on these horrific scenarios and pushed all of us forward in ensuring change comes quickly.
I know I speak for everyone at U.S. Soccer when I say we are eager to learn from the investigation about any systemic issues that exist in the sport – including at the Federation – so we can continue the process of making the necessary changes to protect all players and prevent anything like this from happening again. We are ready and willing to lead all of us forward and use this as an opportunity to set things right and rebuild the trust of the entire soccer community.
We are confident by approaching this process with a true desire for meaningful change, we can rebuild the culture within our sport; one where everyone is safe, welcomed and supported. 
Cindy Parlow Cone
U.S. Soccer President

Chicago Red Stars Owner Arnim Whisler Open Letter

My family and I have been supporting women’s soccer since the founding of the Chicago Red Stars in 2007. From the outset our goal has been to build a sustainable league for women to achieve their professional dreams in a positive and healthy environment. We have dedicated our hearts, time and resources to accomplishing those goals, but in spite of this commitment, we have not yet reached all of our goals. 
I have spoken with many players and the experiences they have told me about are unacceptable. I am further heartbroken this week after learning about the allegations from former youth players that involved the Red Stars former coach at the youth club he founded. There is no place for abuse of any kind in soccer — or anywhere. 
The past few months have been a time of deep humility, contrition, and reflection for me. I have always strived to ensure that everyone hired in our environment is of high character and shares our positive values. But we have not always succeeded. For that, I am sorry. 
I will continue to be accountable for what happens in the club, but I have also made changes to the organization that will allow us to do better. Specifically, in addition to adding new investment partners, we have expanded club oversight and management to include new executives and a newly formed board of directors with an advisory board. Our Chief Business Officer, Vicky Lynch, runs the Club as our lead executive and reports to the board. Going forward our HR executive will also directly report to the board. Our newly appointed Associate GM, former Red Stars player, Michelle Lomnicki, will ensure that the head coach will no longer have primary responsibility for contracts and player personnel matters. We, and the NWSL, have also implemented other changes to our processes and personnel to ensure we have a safe, supportive environment for players and staff. 
This message is not the end of the discussion; our work is not done. We commit to listening more actively and to supporting our players, staff, and our fans. We pledge to better align our actions with our values. Our board and our management will guide the Red Stars into the future and are focused on building a world-class club that prioritizes player and staff health, safety, and wellness. We appreciate all of your ongoing support and your commitment to moving forward together.
Arnim

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