Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke fired after abuse investigation
The former Washington Spirit head coach has been fired by the National Women’s Soccer League following an investigation into allegations of harassment and a toxic work culture. Other team representatives have also been suspended from their league duties.
“After considering the substance of the report and taking into account the Spirit’s previous actions, the NWSL Board of Governors determined that the Spirit and its owners had not acted in the best interests of the League,” said the League. NWSL in its statement Tuesday.
Former head coach Richie Burke’s dismissal follows weeks of reports of The Washington Post who alleged he was responsible for creating a toxic work culture for female employees.
The NWSL does not mention Burke by name in its statement, but rather says that “the Washington Spirit head coach has been fired for cause.”
The league has opened an investigation into Burke and the team, based in the Washington, DC area, following a report released in August by The Washington Post. This report highlighted how Burke created a toxic and abusive environment in the squad that caused players to leave midway through the season.
The NWSL hired an independent third party to investigate the allegations. Following findings that Burke harassed and verbally assaulted his players and violated the league’s anti-harassment policy, the organization has determined that he “cannot work with NWSL players”.
Former Spirit players told reporters they left the team because they couldn’t stand Burke’s “abusive” treatment.
Washington Spirit player Kaiya McCullough said in August that anything could trigger Burke. His anger and outbursts of howling often caused him to unleash “a torrent of threats, criticism and personal insults against McCullough and his teammates,” she said.
Off the pitch, Burke also made some race-insensitive jokes and comments that made McCullough, who is black, uncomfortable.
After those allegations started to emerge, Burke announced he was stepping down this summer for health reasons. The Washington Spirit team said Burke would be placed at the front office.
But the issues within the team were bigger than Burke, according to follow-up reports from The Washington Post.
While Spirit touted the empowerment of women and girls in sport, the team led by Spirit owner and CEO Steve Baldwin maintained a culture that left women feeling marginalized or belittled. Current and former employees told reporters the team felt like an “old boys club” and “misogynist.”
Burke and the Washington Spirit have not commented publicly.
Baldwin had previously called the reports on these issues inaccurate, but did not comment on specific allegations.