Houston Dash’s Clarkson is fourth NWSL coach to be stood down over sexual misconduct allegations

April 27 – A fourth head coach in the 12-team National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has been stood down following the league’s investigation into “discrimination, harassment, abuse, and bullying”.

Houston Dash have suspended head coach James Clarkson following a recommendation by the league and its players association which. Since October 2021, has been conducting a league-wide investigation into abuse within the NWSL.

That investigation was initiated following complaints of sexual misconduct against former North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley. Riley, who denies the allegations, was fired by the club.

Since then Richie Burke, the coach of Washington Spirit, has been fired following claims of sexual harassment and Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames resigned following similar accusations. Both deny the claims.

Announcing the immediate suspension of Clarkson, the Houston Dash said: “As an organisation, our highest priority is creating and maintaining a safe and respectful work environment for our players and staff, which we believe is critical to our success on the pitch. The club has made counselling services available to all members of the organization interested.”

Clarkson had been head coach since 2019 having previously been the academy director for the men’s side.

The investigation by the NWSL and its players association has been looking into multiple allegations of workplace misconduct toward NWSL players. It has also been tasked with addressing systemic issues in the NWSL “that impact the prevention, detection, and response to misconduct”. The recognition of the deep-rooted problem within the league led to the resignation of commissioner Lisa Baird last year.

Current NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said: “I want to thank the players and staff throughout the league who have participated in the overall investigation thus far, and assure them, as well as our fans and partners, that we will deliver on our promise to create a workplace where players and staff are empowered to succeed in a healthy and safe environment.”

The league-wide investigation is on-going.

NWSLPA Executive Director Meghann Burke said: “Players made a promise to ourselves and future generations to transform our League – not through words, but with our actions. This shows that our joint investigation is doing the work of systemic transformation. The work continues, and we commend Players for speaking up and speaking out.”

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