National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team the Washington Spirit announced Wednesday that it is investigating accusations of “verbal and emotional abuse” by a former coach, Richie Burke, who was suspended from the organization.
“We take these allegations very seriously and are undertaking an immediate investigation. Burke has been suspended pending the investigation and is prohibited from contacting players and staff and our facilities,” Spirit owner Steve Baldwin said in statement to The Washington Post.
“We, as a team, will not tolerate any situation for our players and staff that is less than professional. Our athletes, and all of those who support them, deserve the absolute best."
The statement came after the Post contacted the club for comment on a story involving former players that had alleged abuse by Burke.
Burke had resigned as the team's coach Tuesday due to "health concerns" and, at the time, the Spirit said he would be reassigned to the front office.
The investigation and suspension comes after former Spirit defender Kaiya McCullough, who is Black, told the Post that Burke would yell obscenities and personal insults toward her during a practice session, adding that the former coach made incentive jokes about her race.
McCullough, who currently plays for German 2 club Würzburger Kickers, said that Richie made her “hate soccer,” according to the newspaper.
“I was 100 percent in a situation where I was being emotionally abused by Richie,” McCullough said, according to the paper. “He created this environment where I knew I wasn’t playing as well, because I was so, so scared to mess up and be yelled at. It crippled my performance, and it made me super anxious.”
In a tweet on Wednesday, McCullough wrote that she hoped after speaking out about the alleged abuse, her actions could lead to change.
The Hill has reached out to NWSL for comment.