NWSL suspends fired Thorns employees, former Spirit coach Kris Ward



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The National Women’s Soccer League on Tuesday suspended three people from working in the league following investigations of misconduct.

Portland Thorns assistant coach Sophie Clough and athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier were fired as a result of the investigation’s findings, and both are ineligible to return to the league through the end of the 2023 season. Their future employment would come at Commissioner Jessica Berman’s discretion. Former Washington Spirit coach Kris Ward, who was fired in August, “is ineligible to work in the league in any capacity unless or until approved” by Berman, the league said.

Portland defeated Kansas City, 2-0, at Washington’s Audi Field to win the NWSL title in October. The next month, the team reported to the league an allegation that Clough “made a player feel uncomfortable by kissing her neck at the team’s championship celebration.” Clough also was accused of “bullying behavior,” the NWSL said. The league’s investigation substantiated the allegations of unwanted physical contact but not the bullying claim.

Later in November, the team physician reported that Soubrier gave two players medication that contained codeine, a drug that requires a prescription and should be administered by a physician. The NWSL’s investigation found that Soubrier gave the substance to players on multiple occasions without a prescription or physician supervision, a violation of state and federal law as well as of league policy. In one case, the league said, he administered the medication to a player without her informed consent. Soubrier, who is married to Thorns and U.S. star Crystal Dunn, had been placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 7.

The Thorns fired Clough and Soubrier on Tuesday. They can return to the league following the 2023 season at the commissioner’s discretion and pending the fulfillment of additional conditions related to their infractions.

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In August, the Spirit reported that “players had raised concerns about verbal abuse and emotional misconduct” involving Ward and a player during a training session. The league said its investigation substantiated those allegations and found Ward “engaged in overly aggressive behavior and harassment through negative racial stereotyping.”

The NWSL ruled Ward ineligible to work in the league without the commissioner’s approval. To qualify for consideration to return, the league said, Ward “must participate in mandatory training related to discrimination, harassment, bullying and racial bias, demonstrate a sincere commitment to correcting his behavior and acknowledge wrongdoing and accept personal responsibility for inappropriate conduct.”

Tuesday’s announcement came two weeks after the league permanently banned four former coaches and took action against several other individuals and most of its clubs for misconduct that had been detailed in two investigations late last year. Paul Riley, ​​​​​​Christy Holly, Rory Dames and Richie Burke will not be allowed to work in the league again, and fellow coach Craig Harrington will remain ineligible for two years, the NWSL announced Jan. 9.



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