NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird (via OLReign.com).

The NWSL elected to not play its scheduled matches this weekend following player protests over the league’s past inaction on coach Paul Riley after player complaints (revealed in an Athletic article from Meg Linehan and Katie Strang), and that led to plenty of discussion about what’s next for the league, especially considering the significant evidence that commissioner Lisa Baird had previously been informed of many of the accusations (including of sexual coercion) against Riley before they hit the media. As we wrote earlier Friday, “It’s far from clear that this league can get back on track in any shape or form, especially with Baird still in charge.” Well, as per a tweet from Linehan Friday evening, Baird (who took that role in early 2020, as seen above) is no longer in charge, with NWSL general counsel Lisa Levine also let go:

Update: Here’s the statement the league out out later Friday.

As noted in our earlier article, Riley’s case is far from the only recent one suggesting major problems with the league. In the last three months alone, two coaches have been fired around claims of verbal abuse (with teams in both cases initially looking to downplay that), and a third has been fired for unspecified reasons. A general manager was also fired for violating the league’s anti-harassment policy. And the comments we saw from NWSL players after the Riley story broke were far beyond what we normally see from athletes in a league. Here are some of those:

Moving on from Baird and Levine seems highly logical at this point. It’s unclear that this league could have ever resumed play under Baird, who issued a “shocked and disgusted” statement Thursday despite a pile of evidence that she had been previously told about Riley’s actions. And the league’s response to the numerous and detailed allegations against Riley submitted to them was extremely minimal, so it makes some sense to move on from a key legal figure like Levine as well. But for actual substantive change here, more may be needed than just a change in the figures at the top. The NWSL’s players have made it quite clear that the league and its teams’ minimal past responses to serious allegations are no longer enough. We’ll see if new leadership can actually make the league a safe place for players.

[Meg Linehan on Twitter, The Athletic; photo from OLReign.com]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.