Becky Sauerbrunn describes NWSL as ‘really tough’ after harassment allegations

U.S. women’s national team and Portland Thorns defender Becky Sauerbrunn admitted the past couple of weeks have been ‘really tough’ as NWSL players deal with the aftermath of several abuse allegations made against former staff.

Sauerbrunn addressed the media ahead of the USWNT’s friendly against South Korea on Thursday, the first national team match to be played following the accusations and subsequent investigations.

 The Portland Thorns defender admitted that since the revelations, there have been several conversations between players and various levels of the Portland front office.

“I would say that it’s been heavy and being with the players at Portland, the sadness, the anger, the need to want to create change, it’s been tough. It’s been really tough. I mean we’ve had a lot of conversations amongst the players. We’ve had talks with front office.

“We’ve had talks with HR, and it’s just all I can say. It’s been really heavy and we’ve leaned into one another a lot. I’ve had a lot of hard, open conversations about what happened and what needs to change.”

Team owner Merrit Paulson admitted earlier that he regrets not being transparent after firing former head coach Paul Riley back in 2015. Sauerbrunn credited the league’s fragility as the reason to why leaders and staff avoided honestly.

She added that there existed a misconception that if anyone spoke about the imbalances and injustices, the league would ultimately cease to exist.

“I think the outrageousness of this year, with the amount of coaches that have been fired, now with the allegations of sexual misconduct, it’s just been too much,” she said.

“And if you want to talk about when is that feeling of, ‘OK, we have to stop protecting the league. We need to start protecting ourselves,’ that definitely happened this year I would say. I think you’ve seen that in all the players coming together, the demonstrations, the demands from the PA to protect the players. So yeah, I would definitely say the outrageousness and the tragedy of this year is that moment.”

Since the allegations came to light, the NWSL Players Association has been vigilant in hosting conversations with the league and presenting demands that prioritize the players and their safety.

On October 6, the NWSLPA created a list of requests to accommodate players during this difficult situation, including the need for maximum transparency and the participation of all staff in each league-related investigation.

“I know the NWSLPA has been doing such an amazing job, demanding certain changes, making sure the scope of the investigation is broad enough to make sure that the players are protected,” she said. “And at the end of the day that’s what we want, that all the players are protected.”